View Images / Scenes of the Bangalore-Mysore corridor
BMICP project promoter, NICE Ltd. has been empowered to desilt tanks within 5 kilometers on either side of the expressway, to use the silt for embankments. This raises serious questions about access to basic resources such as tank water, and silt as farm fertiliser, by the farmers and villagers of the region. Agara tank (pictured here) is one such tank.
B.M. Kaval forest will be destroyed by the BMICP.
Scenes along the proposed alignment of the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor project (BMICP).
Even by the year 2001, the occupants of this house had not been informed that the BMICP expressway will run alongside their house.
Farmers and laborers along the proposed alignment of the BMICP have not been told that the expressway will run through their land.
View Images of the BMIC Public Hearings
July 5, 2000, Bangalore: Massive police presence at a BMICP public hearing in Bangalore, in July 2000. Anyone questioning the project was arrested by police by order of the Deputy Commissioner, Bangalore Urban District. The National Human Rights Commission is investigating the matter.
March 2000, Bangalore: At this March 2000 BMICP public hearing in Bangalore, the Deputy Commissioner, Bangalore Urban District promised the release of public domain documents and a fresh round of hearings once documents were released.
In a most shocking development, Shri. V. Thimappa, Suptd. Of Police, Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF), assisted by about 150 policemen engaging three JCBs and four Poclain machines, and without any backing of an executive and judicial order, began demolishing private properties in the Pilaganahalli village, near Gottigere, off Banneghatta Road. He was ostensibly engaged in this operation to aid M/s Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) and their controversial Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project (BMIC) involving the construction of an expressway and five townships between Bangalore and Mysore. Read the Press Release
10,000 acres Excess Acquisition! The Unimaginable Land Scam that BMIC Project is Today
March, 2005 -An Expressway and Five Townships were proposed to decongest Bangalore and enable proper development of the region in 1995. All that was needed per the original technical report was 18,000 acres (appox.) of land.
A decade later, there is no Expressway or the promised townships. Previously 'confidential' documents now prove that Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE), in collusion with key senior officials of Karnataka, have grossly abused land acquisition powers to notify 29,258 acres of land, an excess of over 10,000 acres! Thousands of small and marginal farmers who have been displaced have been provided only a pittance in compensation, but NICE now gets to sell these lands at a whopping profit at current market rates. Read the press release about this unprecedented land scam.
CM for review of BMIC
Chief Minister N Dharam Singh on Tuesday (17 August, 2004) said Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor project will be reviewed and added that action will be initiated against the project promoters, Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) in case of any violations. Singh also told reporters that as a first step the state government had asked the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) not to take up township projects, until the government spelt out its view on the entire project.
BMIC Project illegal per new Environmental Notification
Regardless of what the present imbroglio over the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project results in, one thing is certain: the project will now have to undergo a comprehensive and fresh review of its environmental and social impacts following a recent amendment to the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Further, Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) is likely to lose the controversial environmental clearance granted for the expressway component by MoEF in August 2001, as it has both changed the nature of the project from what was originally proposed (which is not allowed at all), and has not complied conditions imposed.
Krishna wants BMIC project scrapped
In a letter to Chief Minister, Mr. Dharam Singh, the former Chief Minister, Mr S. M. Krsihna said that to put an end to the controversy, save thousands of acres of farmland and the environment, and in the light of the four-laning of the existing Bangalore-Mysore highway, it would be appropriate to wind up the BMIC project.
Events in 2003
Chief Minister SM Krishna's reply to an appeal (to shelve the BMIC Project) by a campaign supporter, Ms. Nagini Prasad, Dec 23, 2003
Ms. Nagini Prasad wrote to Chief Minister SM Krishna voicing her concerns on aping western models (BMIC is based on the Columbia-Maryland model) of transport in India and how one has to consider viable alternatives in the local scenario. Read the email exchange between Nagini and the CM.
Former PM accuses CM of corruption in BMIC project, Dec 21, 2003
In an important development, former Prime Minister Shri. H. D. Devegowda , in a press conference accused the Karnataka Chief Minister Shri. S. M. Krishna, and Chief Secretary, Shri. B. S. Patil, of being deeply involved in corrupt practices in promoting the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project. See the Press page for more details.
High court's take on BMIC, Dec 18, 2003
The Karnataka High Court quashed land aquisition for acquiring lands for the construction of townships and convention centres for the BMIC Project. ESG has welcomed the order considering that the townships were crucial to cross-subsidise the expressway,(for the latter is not financially viable on its own and the townships are viewed as a captive source of expressway tolls, for they will mainly be accessible via the expressway), the project now has no standing at all. Press realease.
Read letters of endorsements to the appeal and their views expressed in letters to the CM.
CM Inaugurates 4-laning work of existing SH 17 at Maddur; ESG urges CM to shelve BMIC project, Dec 17, 2003
ESG appealed to the Chief Minister of Karnataka to shelve the BMIC project when he expressed his indignation on the negligible progress on the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor project (BMIC), while inaugurating the 4-laning works of the Maddur-Bangalore section of SH-17 (Bangalore Mysore Highway) on 15th Dec 2003. To voice your support you can mail this appeal to the CM at email@example.com
Read responses and endorsements of the letter of appeal to the CM.
Events in 2002
BMICP @ a glance - An introduction to the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project, October 2002 (49KB)
Maps showing violations in project implemention by NICE
(The maps are all in autocad format and you need to install the freely downloadable EDrawings reader to view these maps. Please right click on the map links below, select "Save Link As" option to save the file to your computer, and open them with the eDrawings software.)
ESG has consistently written to the main Environmental regulatory agencies of the country concerned, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Karnataka State Pollution Control, drawing their attention to the irregualarites and serious environmental concerns from the BMIC project. These agencies have overlooked many of them and accorded Environmental clearance to the project.
Land Acquisition related correspondence
In reading the following letters, note that the Framework Agreement signed between NICE and the Government only allows for 20,193 acres of land to be allocated to NICE for the development of the peripheral road, link road, interchanges, expressway, and townships.
Letters to Financial Institutions (and responses)
The role of Financial Institutions lending to this project is not transparent. ESG has deliberately sought to engage the concerned lending instituitions by seeking information on the financial aspects of the project.
ESG found that in violation of a Reserve Bank of India circular, stating that Banks should not fund Infrastructure projects based on State Government guarantees, ICICI Bank proceeded to fund the project after seeking such guarantees from the State Government. ESG registered a complaint on this violation against ICICI Bank with the RBI. Based on this complaint, RBI filed a case aganist ICICI Bank. This case was finally closed by the RBI without an investigation and merely on a reply from ICICI Bank.
Letters to Government Authorities
Letters to Elected Representatives
It is estimated that the project will affect nearly 2,00,000 people. Despite people strongly opposing this project, no effective action has been taken by the elected representatives.
The project continues to recieve their tacit support. ESG raised many issues in a letter to the elected representatives of the State Legislature and Parliament urging them to take necessary action and shelve this project.
For press coverage on BMIC issue between May 2005 - May 2007 please see here (opens in a new window)
BMICP @ a glance - An introduction to the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project, October 2002 (49KB)
The Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project (BMICP) consists of the construction of a 4-lane (convertible to 6) toll, walled expressway, 5 townships and associated link roads, power plant and supporting infrastructure.
The project is slated to cost upwards of Rs. 2000 crore (US$400,000,000).
The townships are planned to act as population counter-magnets to Bangalore, thus helping to decongest this burgeoning city.
According to project documents1, the project will not be financially viable without the townships, as they will provide a captive source of expressway tolls, being accessible mainly via the expressway.
There are 2 other existing roads between Bangalore and Mysore: State Highway 17 (SH-17 or Bangalore Mysore Road), and State Highway 86 (SH-86 or Kanakpura Road) and also a railway line with several trains running daily.
Furthermore there are several existing towns between these 2 cities, situated along the railway line: Ramnagaram, Channapatna, Mandya, Maddur, Srirangapatna to name a few.
The origins of this project can be traced back to the 1980s when the government of Karnataka was interested in expanding the existing SH-17 from a 2-lane road into an expressway.
They approached the Asian Development Bank, which upon commissioning a study found that SH-17 was not a candidate for conversion into an expressway due to developments along the roadside.
Based on a suggestion by the Karnataka Public Works Department that a road be built parallel to SH-17, tenders were called for and Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) Ltd. were the only bidders.
NICE Ltd. is a consortium consisting of Kalyani Group (Pune), SAB Engineering (Pennsylvania, USA) and Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) (Boston, USA).
NICE conducted its own feasibility study, which included the construction of several townships (initially 7) and an expressway (initially 6-lanes).
This study was accepted by the government of Karnataka (GoK) and in 1995, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the GoK headed by then Chief Minister, Sri. H.D. Devegowda and NICE for the construction of this infrastructure corridor.
BMICP @ a Glance
An Introduction to the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project (BMICP)
The legal, environmental, financial and social issues surrounding the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project (BMICP) are extensive, however in the interests of brevity, this note attempts to provide a background, and, highlight key issues that should be of concern to potential investors and the general public.
The BMICP envisages the construction of a 4-lane (expandable to 6) walled, toll expressway and 5 townships between Bangalore and Mysore.
A schematic view of the proposed expressway and townships, and existing road is available at: http://www.nicelimited.com/project.htm The BMIC Project requires its townships to cross-subsidise the expressway, for the latter is not financially viable on its own[i] and the townships are viewed as a captive source of expressway tolls, for they will mainly be accessible via the expressway.
A major justification for the project is the need to de-congest Bangalore, but without demonstrating by detailed analysis the willingness of people to pay and live in the proposed townships, or pay for travel on the expressway.
Furthermore viable alternatives for development of existing urban centers exist but have not been considered.
The project has been touted as being modeled on the City of Columbia in the State of Maryland, USA.
However, it is difficult to compare the economic and demographic profiles that support the Columbia experience and make this a model for the Bangalore-Mysore corridor.
It must be highlighted though that admittedly the Columbia, Maryland model is not as ideal and successful as claimed or envisioned.[ii]
In 1995, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Government of Karnataka (GoK) headed by Sri. J.H. Patel and, Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), a consortium consisting of Kalyani Group (Pune), SAB Engineering (Pennsylvania, USA) and Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) (Boston, USA).
In March 2001 however upon inquiries as to his company's involvement in the project, VHB Board Chairman, Richard Hangen, denied VHB was involved in the BMICP since 1995 and that he did "not know of the existence of any scope defining a future role for [VHB]."
This while project documents[iii] dated 1999 include VHB as a member of NICE, and NICE continues to claim on its website[iv] that VHB is the "lead engineer" for the BMICP.
Clearly a fraud is being perpetrated upon the people of Karnataka and potential investors, a fraud that 3 different state governments have perhaps chosen not to uncover.
SAB Engineering appears to be a small enterprise headed by Mr. Ashok Kheny (also Managing Director of NICE) and it is unclear what experience it brings to large projects such as BMICP or what its role would be.
It is not clear why the GoK is risking its credibility by engaging such companies and such fraudulent practices.
The BMICP will reportedly cost upwards of Rs.2000 crores (US$400,000,000).
For several years it was unclear who would be financing the project, however, in a 13th June 2002 Economic Times report, Ashok Kheny, Managing Director of NICE claimed that he "expect(s) the consortium of financial Institutions led by ICICI to release funds to the 2000 crores project upon receipt of the comfort letter allaying their reservations over various aspects to facilitate early financial closure."
Apart from ICICI, HUDCO, Life Insurance Corporation, Punjab National Bank and Bank of India are reported to be financing BMICP.
Unit Trust of India and General Insurance Corporation may also be involved in the consortium financing the project.
In August 2002, the Reserve Bank of India filed a case against ICICI for its potential violation of an RBI directive on "Financing of Infrastructure Projects".
It instructs not only financing institutions to be wary of project viability, but also State Governments, that their guarantees (or comfort letters) are not a substitute for reliable appraisal of viability.
Especially given the use of public assets to finance this project (for instance, HUDCO financing and the giveaway of government [public] land to NICE at Rs.10/acre/year), this RBI case against ICICI assumes importance.
Clearances and Legal Violations
On August 1, 2000, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) issued a No Objection Certificate to the project, contingent upon NICE's compliance with several conditions.
Several of these conditions are yet to be met.
On August 8, 2001 the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issued a conditional environmental clearance for the expressway component of the project.
Several of these conditions are also yet to be met, and the MoEF is investigating this matter.
Clearances accorded have been based on faulty Environmental and Social Impact Assessments and farcical Public Hearings.
For instance, one socio-economic assessment asked just 3 questions: the name of the respondent, the address of the respondent and the name of the surveyor, and another was based on faulty statistical sampling.
Such "studies" clearly do not present a picture of the social and economic conditions of the affected population, and, do not even satisfy the guidelines of the MoEF's Environmental Impact Assessment Manual.
The Public Hearings, in particular, were marked by human rights abuses, a matter that was raised before the National Human Rights Commission.
Basic public domain documents and studies about the project have been kept confidential, on grounds that they compromise corporate interest.
In such a situation, the public has little or no opportunity of making a reasoned assessment of the costs and benefits of the BMIC project.
For a project that has such significant and wide impacts, there clearly is no responsibility attached in terms of public accountability, an approach that may well become a liability for potential customers.
Social and Environmental Aspects
Total land acquisition for the project will amount to about 21,000 acres, consisting of agricultural wetlands, and forest land, and according to various reports, the project will affect almost 200,000 people, mostly agricultural laborers and farmers.
Of these, only those owning land and who can show proof of title will be eligible for cash compensation, and these constitute a minority of the total affected population.
Environmental surveys are based on out-of-date records and out-of context reasonings.
For instance, what was once termed "wasteland", may have been developed by local farmers into productive agricultural lands.
Yet the BMICP Environmental Impact Assessment continues to retain the claim to such land as "wasteland" without actually verifying the quality of land presently.
Furthermore, government land (i.e. public land) is being given away to NICE at Rs. 10/acre/year for 30 years, yet this land yields more than this amount to those now cultivating it.
Many of the farmers whose lands would be acquired were not informed of the acquisition by government authorities.
For some whose land will be sliced by the expressway, they will be forced to walk about 1km to reach the other side of their land (as underpasses are proposed every 500 metres).
Water: a major limiting factor
The issue of water is critical, and presents a major limiting factor in this region.
With the ongoing disputes between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over Cauvery River water supply, and with Bangaloreans suffering from erratic and insufficient supply, it is unclear on what basis the GoK has in the BMICP Framework Agreement (1997) permitted NICE "to draw 2 thousand million cubic (tmc) feet of water per annum from the Cauvery River allocation."
A statement by the then Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister D.B. Chandre Gowda that "Bangalore will go without water if we release additional water to Tamil Nadu" is further evidence of the present dire situation.
Recent press reports (June/July 2002) have indicated that the GoK is pursuing expansion of the existing Bangalore-Mysore State Highway (SH-17) and doubling the railway track.
The former is estimated at Rs. 331 crore (US$ 66,200,000) and reportedly requires acquisition of only 65 acres of land, and the latter is estimated at Rs. 276 crore (US$ 55,200,000) and requires minimal land acquisition as most of the land required is railway land.
Both these options are considerably cheaper and involve a great deal less land than the BMICP.
Furthermore, reviving the shelved HUDCO-Southern Railways proposal of developing housing at existing railway stations and towns in the Bangalore Mysore region, will surely meet the growing demands of Bangalore, provided all sections of society affordable housing and safe travel options, rather than the urban sprawl proposed by BMICP.
Furthermore, in what may be a cannibalistic move, HUDCO is not only financing BMICP but also reportedly financing the expansion of SH-17.
Given the more equitable and financially sound options available, it is unclear why the GoK and financial institutions continue to support the BMICP.
Furthermore, a key justification for the BMICP was that SH-17 could not be expanded, which as has turned out was an absolutely incorrect assumption.
Given the ongoing work by GoK to expand SH-17 with HUDCO financing, it raises questions whether BMICP is required; and more fundamentally if it is viable at all.
NICE appears to be canvassing the NRI diaspora to encourage investment in property along this corridor.
It is critical that potential investors have complete and accurate information about all aspects of their investment.
Given the large-scale adverse social, environmental and economic affects of the BMICP, when viable and less damaging alternatives exist, BMICP stands out as an extremely controversial project not only in the eyes of residents of Karnataka, but also of people around India and the NRI community.
Seven years have passed and yet the project is nowhere near financial closure, if that is some evidence.
But for a large section of potential investors who would perceive the project as only an investment opportunity, the likelihood of seeing their money grow seems rather remote presently.
Probably the best evidence for this would be the fact that the 6-lane expressway of the BMICP is unlikely to take off, as the Minister for Public Works of GoK has confirmed lately that only 2 lanes would be developed presently, and not all the way to Mysore.
The issue of whether the townships will ever take off hangs fire.
For more information on the BMICP including representations, reports, letters and press articles/releases please visit http://www.indiatogether.org/campaigns/bmic
Avenues for Action
Unless a critical mass of public pressure is placed upon project promoters and decision-makers to critically evaluate the viability of the project, it is likely that the GoK may support BMICP shrouded in secrecy, and thus inherit the greatest financial disaster from an urban infrastructure project.
The burden would be borne physically and economically by the project affected forever, and financially by citizens of the State.
It is only appropriate that the Hon%u2019ble Chief Minister of Karnataka comes clean on this deal, and Mr. Ashok Kheny, MD of NICE Ltd. provides clear evidence to the viability of this project.
Raising awareness in various public fora such as newspapers and magazines would be fundamental to precipitating such highly desired changes, and bringing some transparency and accountability into the decisions on the BMICP.
Some key issues that may be raised include:
o Given the passing of the Right to Information Act why is basic information about BMICP still not available to the public?
o Why is the Government of Karnataka supporting BMICP when more equitable options for development of this corridor exist, from both a transport and housing angles?
o Why does the Government of Karnataka continue to support the project despite its violations of the Environmental Protection Act (1986)?For instance, public hearings were not conducted as per the provisions of the Act and Environmental Impact Assessment and Socio-economic Assessment were not conducted satisfactorily.
o Why is the Government of Karnataka promoting high risk and flamboyant investments, particularly by questionable companies? (VHB claims non-involvement while NICE claims VHB is "Clead engineer"; SAB Engineering is a very small enterprise which may not have experience of large projects such as BMICP)
o If VHB is, as it claims, not involved in BMICP, then the Memorandum of Understanding signed in February 1995 is null and void, thus how can the project go ahead?
o Why is the Government of Karnataka giving away public land at Rs. 10/acre/year? Where this government land is under cultivation by local farmers, the income earned by them would be greater than the rate charged to NICE.
o Has the Government of Karnataka considered that it may be violating a binding RBI directive by wrongly issuing high risk State Guarantees in lieu of satisfactory assessment of financial viability?
o Has NICE considered that as per a binding RBI directive, financiers cannot fund BMIC based on comfort letters (State Guarantees)?
o Why are public funds being used (HUDCO is a public sector enterprise) for a private project for which the public have/has not been satisfactorily consulted, and for which public domain documents have not been released?
o How can the Government of Karnataka guarantee (as per the Framework Agreement) 2 thousand million cubic (tmc) feet to a privileged 500,000 people in BMICP townships while 6,000,000 Bangaloreans have an erratic and insufficient water supply, particularly in the context of the ongoing battle over Cauvery waters?
o Why is the GoK committing so much land to this project, when NICE Ltd. has been unable to even deposit the small security amount required per the land acquisition process?
o Also, why is this projected exempted from providing rehabilitation to affected families?
o Finally, is BMIC required now that SH-17 is being expanded, and the Bangalore-Kanakpura-Coimbatore/Mysore road is being upgraded as a 4 lane National Highway?
This petition's been addressed to:
Hon'ble Supreme Court (SC) of India, President, Prime Minister (PM), Chief Minister (CM), Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) & National Human Rights Commission NHRC.