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  • Karnataka's chance to shelve the road "Enron"
    A major cabinet decision is likely on the Bangalore Mysore expressway shortly. ESG is requesting citizens to write to the Karnataka Chief Minister and other officials.
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    October 2, 2002: The Government of Karnataka (GoK) is expected to take a major Cabinet decision on the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project (BMICP) in the next few days. Over the last few months there has been documented evidence that the GoK is attempting to rush clearances for this project. In addition to the existing questionable aspects of this project, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) filed a case against ICICI, a major financier of BMICP in September 2002, as ICICI and potentially the Government of Karnataka are in violation of a binding RBI directive on financing of infrastructure projects.

    In view of several serious unresolved issues, and in order to ensure that the wider public interest is upheld, the Bangalore-based Enviroment Support Group (ESG) is requesting citizens of Karnataka and the state's NRI diaspora to write to the Chief Minister of Karnataka at the earliest urging him to put the public interest above all else and hence to not give the green light to the BMIC project. Please write/email letters to the Chief Minister of Karnataka with copies to other officials as indicated below, giving your full name and mailing address.

    Citizens may use the following points in their letters that bring the reality of BMIC to the fore as an unviable and irrational urban development choice.

    1. RBI is studying ICICI's funding of BMIC project in light of the possibility that the project developers and financiers are violating it's binding directive. The state Government may be a party to this violation.

    2. The BMICP characterizes a scheme that is simply too grandiose, and not reflective of the real transport and housing needs demanded in the Bangalore-Mysore region. Existing towns and cities along this corridor have demonstrated economically and culturally vibrant, and well integrated by the existing road and rail network. The state government has quickened the pace of widening the existing Bangalore Mysore Highway (SH-17), and the Southern Railways are keen to develop a second rail track between Bangalore and Mysore. The expansion of this road to four lanes will only require 65 acres of land in all, and there is no need for any land acquisition for doubling the rail corridor. Existing urban areas may benefit immensely from the combined impacts of these developments particularly if incentive is provided for development of high-density self-contained townships in and around existing urban areas between Bangalore and Mysore, which is affordable to a wide section of society. People are likely to prefer living in such urban areas, considering that several have already well developed networks of social, educational and health infrastructure, and would not have much handicap traveling to Bangalore on high speed rail links.

    3. Contrast this with the BMICP, which will involve five new township developments, all of which will only be serviced by the proposed expressway, that which has been reduced now to only a 2-lane road from the original 6 lane expressway. Given now that many housing and corporate development schemes have sprung up successfully around Bangalore, especially along the “IT Corridor”, the potential for development of the BMIC towns is rather bleak. Financially, therefore, the project is almost certain to fail.

    4. All of the above is notwithstanding the fact that the project has very serious environmental and social impacts, especially given that it will involve acquisition of 14,000 acres of farm land and transfer of over 7,000 acres of Government land in the nature of forests, “wastelands” and wetlands, potentially dislocating over 200,000 people.

    5. In addition, water is a major limiting factor in this region. Despite the ongoing Cauvery River dispute, the 1997 Framework Agreement for BMICP questionably commits 2 thousand million cubic metres of water per annum to BMICP from Cauvery waters.

    6. Despite all of this, the state Government has provided “State Guarantees” to the BMICP. Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) and Nandi Economic Corridor Enterprise (NECE), the proponents of BMICP, have no demonstrated financial worth reflected in their inability to deposit Rs. 400 crores ( US$ 80 million) for land acquisition. The likelihood of this project thus becoming a burden on the State Exchequer and the state government mortgaging land and other resources by issuing “comfort letters” on the request of ICICI and other financial institutions, is not only against the principles advocated in the RBI directive of early 2002, but simply put, against the wider public interest.

    Leo Saldanha
    Nagini Prasad

    October 2002

    Write or email the Chief Minister at:

    Shri. S.M. Krishna,
    Chief Minister, Government of Karnataka,
    Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore - 560001.
    Email: cm@kar.nic.in

    Mark copies to: (email)

    1. Shri T. R. Baalu, Union Cabinet Minister (Environment & Forests), Government of India – (mef@envfor.delhi.nic.in, mef@menf.delhi.nic.in)
    2. Shri. P. V. Jayakrishnan, IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India – (secy@menf.delhi.nic.in)
    3. Shri. S. Rajagopalan, Jt. Secretary (IA), Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India (raja-g@nic.in)
    4. Dr. Sathya, Addl. Director (Scientific), Ministry of Environment & Forests, Southern Cell, Bangalore (romoefsz@kar.nic.in)
    5. Shri. Gokul Ram, IAS, Principal Secretary, Dept. of Ecology, Environment and Forests, Government of Karnataka (sececoenv@kar.nic.in)
    6. Shri. Upendra Tripathy, IAS, Chairman, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (u_tripathy@hotmail.com)
    7. Environment Support Group (esg@bgl.vsnl.net.in)

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