Peripheral Ring Road: Is PRR Project That Is Critical To Decongesting Bengaluru Being Rendered Unviable By UPA-era Land Acquisition Law ?
According to an estimate by BDA , the land acquisition cost of the Bengaluru Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) will shoot by ₹14,000 crores if the compensation package is fixed as per Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act 2013.
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) on Wednesday (July 13) held another public hearing on the proposed Bengaluru Peripheral Ring Road (PRR).
The public hearing was held at B.R. Ambedkar Bhavan in Yelhanka amidst heavy police security. Objections over the environmental impact of the project, inadequate compensation and lack of citizen involvement in planning were raised during the hearing.
The BJP-led statement government is attempting to expedite the land acquisition process and launch the much-delayed infrastructure project that has been languishing for over a decade.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai recently reiterated that his government is firmly committed to constructing the peripheral ring road despite massive cost escalation and land acquisition challenges. He added the tenders for the project will be floated soon.
In April this year, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), the nodal authority tasked with the responsibility for providing civil amenities for the metropolis, floated a global tender inviting construction infrastructure firms to submit bids to develop a greenfield 8-lane, 74 km PRR through a public-private partnership (PPP) on design, build, finance, operate and transfer model (PPP-DBFOT).
As per the tender terms, the winning concessionaire will get 50-year lease period for collection of the toll to recover the cost and then hand over the project to the State Government. The winning concessionaire would also be required to pay upfront part of the land-acquisition cost.
The BDA also notified the last date for submission of the bids as May 18 and the bid opening date as May 20.
In June, BDA decided to scrap the tender process and announced that it would issue a fresh one. The decision to scrap the tender was attributed to queries from potential investors who participated in the tender process, seeking clarification on the land acquisition cost.
Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) project
The PRR is planned as a 74 km stretch with a 100-meter-wide road. On completion, it will connect Tumakuru Road and Hosur Road via Hessaraghatta Road, Doddaballapur Road, Ballari Road, Hennur-Bagalur Road, Old Madras Road, Hoskote-Anekal Road, and Sarjapur Road. Along with NICE Road, which links Tumakuru Road and Hosur Road via the city’s northwestern, western and southwestern areas, Bengaluru will have a 116-km-long bypass on its periphery.
The proposed alignment of PRR will be located at an approximate radial distance of 17 km - 25 km from the city centre and is envisaged to be a bypass to the city for the long-distance personalised vehicles (cars and cabs) and commercial vehicles (trucks and LCVs).
The total land requirement for the project, which was initially estimated to be 733 hectares (1811.28 acres), was later revised to 1036.51 hectares (2561.27 acres) due to the change in length of PRR from 65.5 km to 74 km. The increase in length was due to realignment and inclusion of cloverleaf structures to integrate at Tumkur Road and Hosur Road with NICE road.
The project's total cost is Rs 14,934 crores, out of which Rs 9,318 crore is required for land acquisition and rehabilitation purposes, while the construction cost is estimated to be around Rs 5,600 crores. The state government has already provided administrative approval for the project. When originally conceptualised 15 years ago with the aim of decongesting Bengaluru and easing traffic, the project was estimated to be Rs 3,000 crore. But due to design, rapid urbanisation, and land acquisition challenges, the project could never take off despite repeated attempts.
The project is very significant to Bangalore city because it is expected to address serious traffic challenges. According to local authorities and the state government, Bengaluru needs PRR given the massive geographical expansion of the city to the current spread of 2196 sq km and explosive growth of vehicular ownership (2019 estimate - over 80 lakhs).
The ring road is also expected to provide massive economic benefits.
Bengaluru has been attempting to complete several large ring road projects to improve its city-region connectivity and alleviate traffic congestion. A Satellite Town Ring Road (STRR) is currently under construction.
The project has already received initial environmental clearance, which was required as it involves the diversion of 7.91 hectares (19.54 acres) of forest land in the Jarakabandekaval reserve forest.
Since the boundary of Bannerghatta National Park and Puttenahalli bird conservation reserve is located at a distance of 7.21 Km and 1.49 Km, respectively, additional approvals were required.
The proposed PRR alignment is close to Peenya Industrial Area and Jigani-Bommasandra Industrial Area, which are notified as severely polluted and critically polluted areas by CPCB.
As per the environmental impact assessment (EIA) done for the project, 36,824 trees will have to be uprooted for the project. At Thippagondanahalli reservoir, 20 km of the proposed road will be built and 13,355 trees will come in the way of the project. More than 630 trees have been identified in the Jarakabande Kaval reserve forest area.
Environmental groups also say that there are six lakes along the proposed road alignment, and construction will result in a significant loss of habitat for small mammals like squirrels and bats and birds like the Black kite, Brahminy kite, Common buzzard and the Indian peafowl. They argue that about 555 hectares (1,371 acres) of farmland will also be lost to the PRR.
BDA has proposed to mitigate the impact of the PRR on the environment by planting ten trees for every tree removed (a total of 3,38,380 trees to be plated). BDA has also undertaken to erect barriers on both sides of the road construction site to mitigate dust and air pollution. It has promised that no materials will be dropped from a height greater than 3 feet to minimise dust and that water will be sprinkled on the construction site at least three times a day.
Land Acquisition Challenges
A major legal hurdle for the project was cleared in Nov 2021 after the Supreme Court directed the Karnataka government and the Bangalore Development Authority to acquire the land for the formation of PRR and proceed to implement the project.
The SC permitted the project to go ahead in response to an affidavit filed by the Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, Urban Development Department, Bengaluru.
Of the total land notified, government land consists of about 114.20 hectares, Kharab land consists 43.43 hectares and remaining private land is 555.57 hectares.
A section of land owners oppose BDA's proposal to compensate them under the BDA Act and have demanded compensation under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act 2013.
According to an estimate by BDA that was done in 2021, the land acquisition cost would shoot up by more than Rs 14,000 crores if the compensation package is fixed as per 2013 Act.
Even when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government passed the bill in 2013, the critics had pointed out that it would increase the cost of infrastructure dramatically.
While the National Democratic Alliance government attempted to dilute the law by ordinances etc, it abandoned the idea after opposition from allies and a lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha.
BDA and the state government may need to come up with some innovative funding ideas to resolve the problem.
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