PRR project delayed amidst stalemate with farmers

This, after the Supreme Court orders the BDA to redo Environment Impact Assessment

March 18, 2020 10:43 pm | Updated March 19, 2020 08:00 am IST - Bengaluru

There are serious questions raised about the ecological viability of the project.

There are serious questions raised about the ecological viability of the project.

The Supreme Court has ordered the Bengaluru Development Authority to redo the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and get fresh clearances for Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) project on Tuesday. This has effectively delayed the project’s execution by a year and a half. This delay amidst a stalemate with farmers over the compensation package for land acquisition has once again raised doubts over the project itself.

Senior Urban Development Department officials said they were not going to give up on the project but pursue it with renewed vigour and ensure its implementation, as it was critical infrastructure for the city. Though the government did not mention the project in the budget this year, chief secretary T. M. Vijay Bhaskar has been holding a weekly review meeting of the project. The government has also released ₹1,000 crore to BDA for PRR, but the apex court order has thrown a spanner in the works.

There are serious questions raised about the ecological viability of the project. The earlier environment clearance was challenged on the grounds that BDA had suppressed critical information about the project. The National Green Tribunal scrapped the clearance and asked BDA to redo the EIA which the Authority challenged in the apex court but lost.

There are four issues suppressed by BDA during the last EIA: PRR cuts across the eco sensitive Tippagondanahalli watershed and Jarakbande Kaval Reserve Forest. The road intersects with the Petronet gas pipeline at 17 locations and that the project will lead to over 16,000 trees being cut, said Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group (ESG).

While BDA had claimed only 200-500 trees would be cut, an RTI reply by the Forest Department claimed over 16,000 trees will have to be cut, activists point out. “The BDA has to prove that the project is ecologically viable now. The Supreme Court orders clearly indicates that short circuiting environmental clearances wont work,” he said.

The EIA study will likely take 18 months, sources said. As the apex court has set aside the earlier EIA and EC, Vijaykumar Gogi, member secretary, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority – Karnataka, said the authority will follow all Ministry of Environment of Forests norms and vet the data submitted by BDA for credibility.

“Data needs to be collected during two seasons other than the rainy season. Later the Authority is expected to give its decision in 150 days. The time this process will take depends on BDA,” he said.

Meanwhile, negotiations with landowning farmers over compensation package has entered a stalemate. “BDA has been offering to compensate farmers based on an outdated guidance value. After waiting for nearly a decade and a half with their lands essentially locked, the farmers deserve a compensation at today's market price, a rightful demand we are making,” said Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, president, Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha.

He said a further delay will only cost the farmers. “We were supposed to meet the chief minister over the issue. But the meeting has been put off due to the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic crisis,” he said.

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