Touted to be the longest and largest steel bridge in the country, Bengaluru, the yester years city of gardens, will be paying a hefty price for the project which is going to “ease” traffic for 6.72 kilometers in the city. As many as 812 fully grown trees, consisting of seven different species including the priced mahogany trees, will be chopped down to build the bridge. While this loss can be dismissed as a price of development, the bigger loss would be the demolition of a portion of the heritage structures of the Balabrooie guest house on Bellary Road and the Carlton House on Palace Road.
The steel bridge project, which was given the approval by the Karnataka cabinet, has been awarded to Larsen and Toubro at a cost of Rs 1,791 crore. Law minister T B Jayachandra on Wednesday said the Cabinet approved the project with the purpose of easing the traffic on the stretch between the centre of the city, Chalukya circle, to the Kempe Gowda International Airport (KIA). It is said the traffic density on the stretch is 2.68 lakh per day near Hebbal Flyover.
Soon after the Cabinet briefing BDA commissioner Rajkumar Khatri said the authority was fully aware of the environmental concerns and that it will be fully compensated. “The 812 trees which will be chopped are going to be replaced with compulsory afforestation 20 times the number,” he said. The said afforestation will bring 16,240 new trees to be planted.
However, when asked as to where the afforestation will happen, Khatri said it will be in the BDA areas which include their new layouts and other housing projects which are predominantly located on the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, on the heritage structures land for the steel bridge, BDA claimed the portions of land to be demolished at the Balabrooie guest house and the Carlton House are both minimal and not likely to hurt the actual structure.
Further, the iconic structures of Jawaharlal Nehru Plantorium and the Indira Gandhi Musical Foundation will also be “tampered” with for the project. Barring this, the BDA will also be seeking to acquire portions of the Chalukya hotel, prestigious Golf Course and seek the land of Air Force Training Command at the Mekhri circle. The total extent of land which is going to be sought with the partial demolition of these iconic buildings of Bengaluru and the chopping of trees is four acres and 28.81 Guntas. Earlier, Jayachandra said the BDA has been given the directives to complete the project within 24 months.
With no government assistance for the mega project, the BDA is likely to seek the tolling of this stretch for commuters. While Jayachandra was probed time and again by the media on whether the stretch will be tolled, he refused to give a clear answer. “For using a good road, people are ready to pay the price. But a final decision will be taken only after the completion of the project,” he said. However, BDA officials said to recover the money which it will be spending solely on its own it may seek for either tolling the road or seek compensation from the Urban Development Department (UDD).
The total number of trees to be chopped: 812
The iconic structures to lose part of its property:
- Balabrooie guest house (Palace Road end): 214 (Sq Mtrs)
- Balabrooie guest house (Bellary Road): 2,957 Sq Mtrs
- CID Centre (Carlton House): 380 Sq mtrs
- Jawaharlal Nehru Plantorium (Raj Bhavan Rd): 2,920 Sq mtrs
Chalukya Hotel (Palace Road): 18 Sq mtrs
- Golf Course (Bellary rd): 4,337 Sq Mtrs
- Air Force Training Command centre (Mekhri circle): 3,183 Sq Mtrs
- Total land acquisiton: 4 acres and 28.81 guntas