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European Bank to mediate in metro-church row

The complaint redressal team of the EIB will meet the members of the church and BMRCL by the end of July. It is learnt that two teams representing the lender have already visited Bengaluru to take note of the objections raised by the church and th...

, ET Bureau|
Jul 23, 2019, 10.33 AM IST
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Premkumar, who is leading the protest in the parish, says a smaller metro station at the Vellara Junction would solve the problem.
Bengaluru: The European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed to mediate in the tussle over 3,700 sqmt of land belonging to the All Saints’ Church that the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRCL) wants for the 13-km underground project (Reach 6) in Bengaluru. The international lender has committed €500 million (₹3,867 crore) for the Metro line.

The complaint redressal team of the EIB will meet the members of the church and BMRCL by the end of July. It is learnt that two teams representing the lender have already visited Bengaluru to take note of the objections raised by the church and the arguments placed by the BMRCL.

The EIB intervened after a member of the All Saints Church Congregation Association, Ebenezer Premkumar, wrote to the Luxembourg-headquartered bank about BMRCL’s plans after his complaints to the BMRCL yielded no results.

“We are confident the EIB will listen to our plea. The church has heritage status and it is 150 years old. There are over 180 trees on its premises and some are 100 years old. We are not against the metro project but BMRCL is not looking at alternatives,” Premkumar said.

ET went through the correspondence between Premkumar and the EIB. BMRCL managing director Ajay Seth also confirmed such a letter has been written to the EIB, which is the leading financier of the 13-km project. In 2017, the BMRCL had come up with an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on Reach 6, an important criterion to avail funding from the lender.

The 110-page report had detailed the environmental risks and impacts and the magnitude of land acquisition and resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) issues involved in the project. Such an indepth report was not prepared for the remaining five stretches of the 72-km Phase II project. The BMRCL also put out the report in the public domain as mandated by the international lender. In the EIA report, the EIB also points out that it would conduct “routine work on environmental and social matters through the project cycle.” ET reached out to EIB but there was no response.

Premkumar, who is leading the protest in the parish, says a smaller metro station at the Vellara Junction would solve the problem. “The BMRCL should cut down the length of the station to 150 metres from the original 234 metres. If the length of MG Road Metro station can be 192 metres and cater to 23,000 people a day, the Vellara junction can definitely be reduced to 150 metres,” he said.

The BMRCL, for now, is going ahead with the plan of acquiring the land. “We may need about 4-5 months to complete the land acquisition process,” a BMRCL official said. Members of the church are drafting objections and are also planning to approach the court. Work has begun at four places (Kamaraj Road, Shivajinagar, Cantonment and Pottery Town) for the underground metro stations. Excavation work at the Vellara Junction is on hold till the dispute is resolved.
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