Before I elaborate on to the measures that I think will make Bengaluru a better place to live, here is a list of measures or projects that I doubt would make a significant impact -Namma Metro, formation of the Bengaluru Blue Print Action Group (BBPAG) , the frankly foolish proposal for a monorail or any of the numerous committees formed to suggest measures and coordinate between departments to decongest Bengaluru.
The reasons for my skepticism for the above are not under the purview of this article but to summarize they are costly,ineffective, unconstitutional and irrational respectively.
The measures that will make a difference are as follow-
1. Increased Floor Area Ratio (FAR) in the radius of Metro lines
The Government of Karnataka has allowed increased FAR/FSI of four in the 500 metre radius of metro lines for a premium which will be used to fund the Metro Rail Network. Even if we assume that about 40 percent of the area in the 500 metre radius will be occupied by roads, about 63 Sq. km of area in Bengaluru City will be allowed higher FAR thus enabling increased supply of both residential as well as commercial units and lead to increased densification.
According to Randall O Toole ‘(metro) Rail transit doesn’t lead to more growth. If growth takes place along the rail line because of a higher FAR allowance, that translates into less growth somewhere else. Thus, any money paid to allow that growth is money that could have been used for something other than supporting the rail line’. Consequently, areas like Whitefield and Electronic City may see a little lower growth. What I’m pretty sure about is that further outgrowth of commercial centres into areas beyond these places (suburbanization of jobs) will halt for a while.
We need near blanket FAR increases across the city to stop this needless suburbanization in the long term. However, in the short term, this measure will certainly make a difference in halting the suburbanization of Bengaluru and the destruction of wetlands, lakes and vegetation that accompanies it.
2. Tender SURE
Not many may have heard about Tender SURE. It is a model for rebuilding roads to meet international standards vis a vis enabling supporting infrastructure like dedicated pathways for Optic Fiber Cables (OFCs), Utilities , etc in an aesthetic manner. In effect, this means : no more deathtraps in the form of dug up drains and hanging electric lines on these roads. The best part about it is we will not be seeing the roads being dug up every few months to repair some pipeline or lay OFCs. More than 100 kilometres of roads is proposed to be rebuilt this way and more than 15 kilometres of road construction is either in progress or completed. The completed ones include St. Marks Road and Vittal Mallya Road.
This will not only enable smooth travel across a lot of vital roads of Bengaluru but also help upgrade telecom infrastructure in huge parts of of the city. There would be no more a need to rebuild/ repair the roads in intervals ranging from three months to three years. These roads can withstand Benglureans and our government for more than ten years. One hopes that the Karnataka Government and BBMP expand the programme to include more roads under the Tender SURE scheme.
3. Community led Lake Rejuvenation
As with all things run by the government, lakes too fell into a state of misuse and sewage dumps. After the various lake related incidents last year sparked enormous public outrage, communities and concerned citizens are increasingly coming forward to take control over management of lakes. The BBMP is surprisingly open to the idea and is exploring the possibility to institutionalize it. Hopefully more communities come forward to manage nearby lakes.
4. The end of Siddaramiah’s Chief Ministership
Siddaramiah is due to leave the post of Chief Ministership in another two years and BS Yeddyurappa (BSY) of the BJP will in all probability return as the Karnataka CM. BSY in his earlier term initiated and accelerated many infrastructure projects within the city and did not treat the city as a milch cow to fund vote buying programmes like Anna Bhagya and Ksheera Bhagya.
The return of the BJP will enable the state government to adopt the new legislative framework on passenger transport industry which will soon be passed by the centre. BSY will certainly be in a better position than Siddaramiah in negotiating for central funds in infrastructural upgrades and pass reforms in zoning that the Ministry of Urban Development has recommended to enable affordable housing and living conditions in cities.
Shreyas Bharadwaj is a Hindutvawadi from Mysuru who is interested in writing about cities and public policy.
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