About three lakh property owners will lose their property to road widening
“If the red markings on the wall are anything to go by, the proposed road widening will cost me my balcony. The markings were made nearly three years ago. There has been no progress. Now we hear that Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) may undertake the widening,” said Thyagaraj Sharma, a resident of an apartment complex on Bannerghatta Road.
According to modest estimates, around three lakh property owners will lose their entire property or at least a part of it to road widening. As many as 216 roads across the city were notified in 2004-05 for widening as per the Revised Master Plan 2015. Even eight years after being notified, hardly 20 roads have been widened.
None of the political parties have addressed the issue in their election manifestoes and eased the anxiety thousands of residents across the city are facing. The manifestoes only mention decongesting traffic by constructing flyovers, underpasses, grade separators and subways. While the BJP claims that work on 60 grade separators was in progress, the Janata Dal (Secular) states that all arterial roads would be made signal-free and to the “required extent, underpasses, overpasses, flyovers, pedestrian crossings will be created as per traffic management plan.”
Mr. Gunashekar, Opposition Leader in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) council, opined that the roads were notified to be widened to appease the developer lobby in the city. The Transferable Development Rights (TDR) was also introduced in the interest of the builder lobby, he charged.
Even though only a handful of roads have been widened, there is a perceivable loss of greenery in the city. Vinay Sreenivasa from Hasiru Usiru said that though there is no concrete data on the number of trees felled for road widening, the loss of greenery has been significant. “The engineers are developing our roads in such a way that trees cannot be planted after the widening is completed. This is not there in any party’s manifesto,” he pointed out.
Vinay Baindur, researcher on urban governance, said that it was myth that road widening, construction of underpasses and overpasses was “development.” “However, this is nothing but misusing, diverting and stealing funds from local neighbourhood-level functions and amenities. This skewed picture of planning and governance where citizens’ needs and amenities are not planned for is an alarming and dangerous trend.”
That the roads notified for widening were done so without proper scrutiny is undeniable, said A. Ravindra, Adviser to Chief Minister on Urban Affairs and former chief secretary. He said that the delays in taking up the work could be attributed to problems in acquisition of land, outrage of environment groups over felling of trees and legal hurdles. He also said that the next government besides exploring alternatives to road widening, must also rethink TDR and ensure that it does not burden the property owners.