2 day long National Strategy Meet on Metro Projects concludes with participation from cities of Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Thane, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad.
Participants raise serious concern that Metro projects are being implemented without careful consideration of the financial, economic, environmental and social impacts.
The 2 day long National Strategy Meet on Metro Projects concluded today at Ajmera Hall, Mumbai. The meet was attended by representative activists, academicians, environmentalists, transport experts, architects etc from 7 cities including Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Thane, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad etc.
The Meet was held in the context of the announcement of Metro Projects to be introduced in 26 cities with proposed investment of 1 lakh crore rupees. The meet was inaugurated by lighting “mashal”, flame of struggle, by veteran freedom fighter Shri Ajmera, Prof. Swapana Banerjee Guha, Kathiayani Chamraj (CIVIC-Bangalore), Smt Geeta (Metro Yard Hatao Abhiyan-Mumbai) amidst slogans.
Prof Swapana Banerjee Guha delivering the inaugural speech threw light on the policies and programmes of today’s governments that are pushing ahead the neo-liberal agenda leading to dispossession of people off their rights, land-livelihoods & lives. Thereafter, presentations specific to the cities of Delhi & Bangalore were made by Rajender Ravi & Leo Saldhana respectively.
Rajender Ravi brought to the notice of everyone that Delhi Metro Rail Corporation(DMRC) has been receiving number of relaxations and subsidies from the government but not passing it on to the users. Since its inception, thousands of people have been displaced with no rehabilitation being provided to them.
Leo Saldhana mentioned that the initial budget amount was 4000 crores in the year 2004 which without much work being done has crossed 9,000 crores. While the cost for BRTS is much below this but it is not being taken ahead because Sreedharan(DMRC) has been pushing the idea ahead that without Metro our cities will fail. In Bangalore, during the last 10 years the per capita available space has dropped to 2 sq.ft per person. With Metro this is to further drop as FAR for 150 sq,mts around Metro stations has been increased to 4, which means more construction activities. Surprisingly JBIC is funding to tune of 45% of the total cost and though it has strict environmental rules out in construction of Bangalore Metro the same are being blatantly violated. All the left green spaces-parks are being taken over by declaring Metro as an industrial activity. Cities have complex relationships, its not only; which technology you choose but also the impact of the technology on people who use it. The DPR of Bangalore Metro was submitted by Shreedhrana on 31st March 2004 and the very next day i.e 1st April 2004 it was approved by the then Chief Minister Shri Krishna. Bonded labour is being brought in large numbers from Jharkhand and child labour is being employed for work. Metro has asked the government of Karnataka to provide it with subsidised electricity at rate of Rs 2.20 /Kilowat when the government is purchasing it at the rate of Rs. 5/kilowatt from Chattisgarh.
Kathiayani Chamraj lamented the fact that no study was done that could justify the project benefits. With large evictions and displacement, there was a need to form citizen committees to monitor the rehabilitation process.
Rushanak from Ahmedabad said that, Government of Gujrat has been smartly cornering large amount of funds for uplifting its image and availing funds form the central pool. On of the project that has been pushed un-democratically is the BRTS project which is to be implemented in 4 phases with 460 crores being spent on the first phase only. In Ahmedabad 5-6 lakh families are dependent on street vending. Hundreds of vendors have been moved out till date without any sort of compensation or rehabilitation. Before moving them out, they are not given any prior information. Although 55 stations have been developed till date, but no vending is being permitted there inspite of the fact that vendors are ready to pay the commercial prices for the same.
The details of land scam in the name of Metro for Hyderabad by the defamed Satyam and its subsidiary Matyas were laid down by Ramchandriah. They are to be handed over 260 acres of prime land of Hyderabad and huge shopping complexes and mall are to come up on these l ands. It shows you very clearly how AP government and Maytas have been in collusion in the metro rail project. Basic bidding rules have been flouted. The Hyderabad Metro Rail Project is spread across 71 kms. Initially it was estimated to cost 6,000 crores but in a short period of 3 years the cost has doubled to Rs. 12,000 crores. Much information has been not shared with the citizens even under the RTI Act. Many of the heritage sites will have to be demolished to make way for the Metro including many of the historical structures. The Environment & Social Impact Assesment Studies were found out to be of low standard. Since last few years, the Metro has been pushed as an inevitable transport option for providing world class transport to the residents while systematically weakening the existing public transport systems.
Sudhir Badami, strongly contested the idea of Metro as the only feasible transit system to solve transport problem of cities. He mentioned that the Delhi Metro Rail project was pushed ahead with inflated rider ship estimates which was not unique to it only as world over the experiences have been the same, i.e Metro being financially un-viable. According to him, international experiences show that Metro, no where has led to traffic de-congestion, rather it has resulted in urban de-gradation; with the rich enjoying the subsidies provided by the poor. In almost all cities majority of the population (to the extent of 85-90%) uses public transport which needs to be improvised and made more efficient. Mumbai Metro, it has wrongly estimated to cost 19,500 crores of rupees, later on revised to cost 45,000 crores; while actually would cost 60,000 crores of rupees taking 20 -25 years to complete. Instead of this, there are cost effective and more efficient transit systems of Skybus and BRTS available, which should have been the first option for improving the existing transport systems as they have lost cost of construction as well as short period of implementation.
Medha Patkar expressing her surprise, lamented the fact that, how it was possible that Metro-claimed to employing latest technology be implemented under British day’s Indian Tramways Act of 1886. While Shri E Sreedharan who is also a consultant to MMRDA for Mumbai Metro has publicly raised objections to the PPP Model for developing Metro with specific comments that it could “lead to a big political scandal”, why was it that the same model was being employed for Mumbai and other cities. The National R&R Policy 2007, National Housing & Habitat Policy 2007 as well as National Transport Policy 2005 have all their objectives as “to minimising displacement and to promote, as far as possible, non-displacing or least displacing alternatives”, Metro Rail was contrary to all the above stated policies. Till today no Options Assessment from the point of view of Economic Viability, Financial Viability, Socio-Economic Impacts on Displaced Communities and Impact on Environment has been made till today. Also Metro was another mean of grabbing over the lands of the poor by displacing them of their homes and livelihoods.
T. Venkat from Chennai mentioned that the 45 kms long Metro was to cost 14,500 crores and was inaugurated recently. Though government claimed that 90 % of the land required was government land and thus very few demolitions were to be carried out, which was not true. Similarly the Government of Tamil Nadu was implementing Elevated Road projects(a 9 phases circular elevated roadways costing 3,000 crores) which was leading to displacement of thousands of families and all this was being done to provide better facilities for the private vehicle owners.
Suniti SR from Pune brought to notice of every one that Pune Metro, a Project worth Rs 7,000 crores was being pushed ahead without sharing any information or consultation with the residents. In name of implementing Metro the FSI has been increased to 4, which would lead to a land scam. The DPR was also in-complete and un-professional.
Overall it seemed clear that Metro was being pursued as a be all and end all solution to the public transport gaps in many urban areas. It was analysed by various researchers that the uncontested faith in the Metro must be tackled first and foremost. It was recognised that while Metro may be a solution, it should not be the only approach to adopted in resolving our transport and travel crises.
It was also recognised that Metro project implementation must be part of
a planned process per law. It was widely acknowledged that all Metros
in all cities of India are being implemented in blatant violation of
this process. There was serious concern that Metro projects are being
implemented without careful consideration of the financial, economic,
environmental and social impacts. A detailed analysis of the Hyderabad,
Delhi and Bangalore experiences helped draw the conclusion that such
mega projects are being rushed through without any careful review
whatsoever. There is no mystery, therefore, that the MAYTAS scandal
It was also recognised that Metro projects were being wrongly exempted from the purview of various laws, for instance the EIA Notification, and action was immediately initiated by way of a representation signed by all to Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to correct this anomaly. The Metro has been taken out of the preview of the EIA Notification since there was intense lobbying by the construction lobby including Metro proponents, it also important to know that the EIA Notification are bureaucratic legislations and not brought by Parliament.
Without contesting the need for an effective, people friendly and pro-poor public transport system, it was recognised that the Metro systems being built currently actively excluded those who need public transport the most – the urban poor and working classed. This was being done by various measures including not allowing the movement of goods, inability to take cycles on Metros (an approach actively encouraged in many progressive metros) and deliberately not providing public conveniences such as water kiosks, toilets, food centres, etc. However, the same systems aggressively promoted shopping in malls, large car parking zones, etc. Clearly this was identified as a class driven exercise – and needs to be corrected.
It was recognised that the National Urban Transport Policy was progressive, but the process by which it was evolved was not democratic. It was identified that it must be country wide demand that all mega projects must be implemented by the procedure laid down in the Nagarpalika Act, and for this the laggard implementation of its progressive features (especially that of Metropolitan/District Planning Committees) must become a condition for State and Central support for urban infrastructure projects. Overall, no project should be rushed through on reactionary grounds, especially projects like Metro which would consume enormous funds and take decades to complete, without due public participation in their decision making as laid down in the Town and Country Planning Act, Nagarpalika Act, and various other legislations and policies.
It was also recognised that the rights of pavements vendors and street dwellers was being snuffed out despite such actions violating Supreme Court directives and national policies. The particular disregard for bastis of the poor when large projects are developed was condemned.
(Report prepared by Simpreet Singh & Zainab Bawa, with inputs from Leo Saldanha)