The Bangalore Peripheral Ring Road Project
In 2005, the Bangalore Development Authority proposed the construction of a 65.5km, 8-lane-expressway called the Peripheral Ring Road to complete the other half of the Bengaluru-Mysuru NICE (Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises) Link Road. Since then the project has been stalled for over fifteen years now as it is subject to a number of lawsuits.
Various farmers and landowners raised objections in the early years dealing with the acquisition process of their lands. Environmentalists then raised concerns about the defective Environmental Impact Assessment carried out for the project where the environmental impact of the project was vastly under-represented.
The project would lose Bengaluru over 33,000 trees, including in the Thippagondanahalli Reservoir catchment and in reserve forest areas. Of these, 9,304 trees are in the Thippagondanahalli Reservoir catchment area, which is a primary source of water for Bengaluru’s residents. The EIA acknowledges that the removal of these trees and the disposal of waste will “affect the hydrological regime and water quality”.
Construction of the PRR would involve the loss of 10 hectares (25 acres) of forested land in Jarakabandekaval Reserve Forest. Besides, there are six lakes along the proposed road alignment. Hence, its construction is expected to result in significant loss of habitat for small mammals like squirrels and bats, and for birds like the Black kite, Brahminy kite, Common buzzard and the Indian peafowl. About 555 hectares (1,371 acres) of farmland will also be lost to the PRR. BDA estimates that the total CO2 emissions from construction and maintenance of the road would be 5.52 lakh tonnes. This number is the equivalent of burning 24 crore litres of petrol or adding 1.2 lakh additional cars to Bengaluru.
Legal Battles and the YEJC's Work:
In 2020, The Supreme Court finally rejected the Environmental Clearance granted to the project in 2014 and ordered the project proponent to conduct a fresh impact assessment. This was followed by a revised EIA in June 2020 and for the purposes of which an online public hearing on the ZOOM application was scheduled on 23rd September 2020. Citizens of Bengaluru, impacted stakeholders such as landowners, farmers and other community members protested against the scheduling of the hearing. This was primarily because, as they claimed, that alignment of the project is yet to be finalized and the Detailed Project Report has not been provided to the public, hence the public hearing was primarily a sham.
The time period between the notification and the hearing was less than four weeks and hence this would result in a significant number of people being excluded from the public hearing process due to accessibility issues. The YEJC, conducted a detailed research assignment on the legality of an online hearing process and filed a representation with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board on 10th September 2020 highlighting the various issues with the scheduling of the online public hearing. Our representation demanded that the consultation be cancelled and for other more accessible mediums to be used in a safe and appropriate manner. We also filed an RTI on 14th October seeking further information on the Peripheral Ring Road project.
After no considerable response from the relevant authorities and time running out, the YEJC filed a Writ Petition in the Karnataka High Court challenging the notification issued by the KSPCB and the Bangalore Development Authority. The matter is currently sub-judice, however we have been granted an interim relief as – the Karnataka High Court stopped the appraisal process for the project until our case was decided. We are hoping for a favorable judgment that protects the rights and interests of impacted communities and the environmental rights of the city of gardens, Bengaluru.
Since the 1960s, ring roads or circular highways built around the city center have been a common feature in large metropolitan areas. These roads allow vehicles to travel from one end of the city to the other without having to pass through the busy center. In Namma Bengaluru, the only complete ring road is the Outer Ring Road (ORR), constructed between 1996 and 2002. Multiple flyovers and underpasses have sprung up since its construction to ‘ease’ traffic flow at intersections, eliminating the need for traffic lights. Yet, this road is constantly jammed and authorities have failed to limit development adjacent to the ORR.
Outside the ORR, at a distance of about 20 km from the city center, is the semicircular NICE (Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises) Road connecting Tumkur Road in the north-west to Hosur Road in the south-east. This corridor was conceived in 1997, and the first section was inaugurated in 2006. Several successive Bengaluru Master Plans have proposed a road connecting the two ends of the semi-circle, to complete an orbital road. This project has been called the Peripheral Ring Road (PRR).