An ‘Open House’ On Bengaluru Metro Expansion That Was Not

On 22nd April 2022, Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) in collaboration with and Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) organised an invitee only ‘Open House’ for planning Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and Multimodal Integration (MMI) frameworks into the 55 km long 2A and 2B metro lines (Blue Line) connecting Silk Board via K R Puram to the Bengaluru International Airport. This section of the Metro is supported by a loan from Asian Development Bank  (ADB) to the extent of USD 500 million and the Japan International Cooperation Agency providing a USD 330 million loan.  

ADB is also extending an additional USD 2 million as part of a technical assistance grant to support Integrated and Sustainable Urban Development along Mass Rapid Transit Corridors in Bengaluru, as part of which a consortium led by IBI Group including IBI, Indian Institute of Human Settlements and UDP INTE are undertaking public consultations to study impacts and propose and design land use development along the alignment. 

The ‘Open House’ involved a panel discussion consisting of Shri. P.C. Mohan, Member of Parliament (Bengaluru Central Constituency), Shri. Anjum Parwez, MD, BMRCL, Shri. N.A. Harris, MLA (Shantinagar constituency), Smt. Sowmya Reddy, MLA ( Jayanagar constituency), Shri. S.R. Vishwanath, MLA (Yelahanka Constituency) and also in his position as Chairman of Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) and Smt. V. Manjula, IAS, Commissioner of DULT. Various civil society groups and representatives of resident welfare associations along the proposed blue line were part of the open house. 

While the effort in consulting the public priorly is appreciated, several concerns have emerged about the process:

  • It was to an audience who were invited and who also confirmed via online registration.
  • The location was Lalit Ashok Hotel, a luxury Hotel in Kumara Krupa Road, situated tens of kilometres away from regions affected by the proposed alignment, which, apart from the distance, is a kind of place that is not inclusive. 
  • There was no prior intimation to the wide public about this consultation by way of paper advertisements, as would be the norm.
  • If the promotion of TOD and MMI are in conformance with land use planning laws and directives of the Karnataka High Court specifically relating to Metro development.
  • Overall it was an exercise that did not meet the necessary standards of the applicable Principle of Free Prior and Informed Consent.

The Open house was inaugurated with opening remarks from Shri. Anjum Parwez. This was followed by a presentation from  Smt. Manjula on the ‘6-6-6’ model: a 6-minute transit for people closest to the metro station, i.e.  6 minutes by walk, cycle or by bus, as projected for the MMI framework planned for Bengaluru. On the basis of this presentation, public comments were invited. 

When representatives of Environment Support Group presented a note that discussed the legal, policy, land use, socio-economic and environmental implications of these questions, its sharing was disallowed and copies that were to be shared with all participants brusquely taken away. The panel, in fact, disregarded the need to discuss any concern relating to access to information of what is proposed and of the need to consult impacted communities. It was stated such processes would delay the project and that in any case issues relating to proposed changes in land use would be discussed at another stage, and not in this meeting. 

The meeting which commenced at 3 pm (it was to start at 1:30 pm) did not provide sufficient time for meaningful interaction with the audience. Only panellists found sufficient time to articulate their ideas.

This report is by Janani Suresh and Anirudh Menon of Environment who participated in the ‘Open House’. Vikas Balu, an intern at ESG, helped in its preparation.

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