What ails Bengaluru? Besides a million other things there is also, as suffering citizens love to repeat ad-nauseum, the complete absence of ‘planning’.
If this was ever in doubt, it should become even clearer after the public consultations being conducted by the Bengaluru Development Authority towards developing a “Revised Master Plan 2031” (RMP 2031) for the city. These consultations are being conducted in the 2nd half of January 2017 in six installments, across the city.
To be fair to the BDA – they have made it clear that they are seeking opinion and inputs ‘prior’ to committing anything into the RMP 2031. So what they have been presenting in these consultations is not the plan per se – but the background thinking and material that would evolve into the RMP itself.
The first ‘master plan’ for Bengaluru. we are to understand, was published in 1984. Revisions to this master plan were published in 1995 and 2007. The, current set of consultations, will lead to the RMP 2031 – which will be the 4th such plan for the urban area.
What is the sanctity of a particular version of the plan and how does it build on previous versions? Not very much at all, if we are to look at the way the process has been approached.
Here is what the document the BDA has put out for the consultations says,
‘… it has been felt that the alternative to a “Master plan” is “a master plan”, an improvement from the earlier plan.’
read this in conjunction with,
“Once notified by the Government under the KTCP Act, 1961, this Revised Master Plan 2031, for Bengaluru (Bengaluru Metropolitan Area) will replace and override the RMP 2015, presently in force. Till such time, the RMP 2015 will continue to be in force”.
The way things have been turning out over the period since these ‘plans’ have been published suggests that there is, in fact, zero obligation on the part of the agencies or the Government to adhere to the master plan. If, on the ground, there is significant non-compliance with the ‘current’ version of the plan, the next revision, when it comes around, just ‘normalizes’ such departures by revising the baseline. The plan, in reality, is open to manipulation ‘on the street’ and the ‘revised’ plan is then just back-fitted to the street-negotiated outcome.
With such waffling, life goes on – as it has in Bengaluru – resulting in the dismal predicament we are in today. The ‘master plan’ is, hence, just lip service and has no sanctity.
At the consultation, there were no answers forthcoming to even the simplest questions such as why commercial development has inundated and destroyed the livability of specific areas of the city that are clearly marked as residential zones. Or why demarcated open spaces have disappeared completely from plan to reality.
While the pre RMP 2031 document that has been made available to the public, is still a ‘work in progress’, it is desperately missing the structure and elements of a plan.
There are standalone facts and figures with respect to population growth, water needs, solid waste, transport and power and three ‘scenarios for the future’ that have been have been called out – low growth (to support a 15 million population), high growth (supporting 25 million people) and optimal growth scenario for the city (supporting a population of 20 million).
However, there is no articulation of a path or steps to traverse to a particular outcome, say the ‘optimal growth’ scenario, if indeed that is a desirable target, and there are no recommendations of any kind. There is a lack of benchmarks with respect to power, water, traffic/transport needs from other cities, as an attendee pointed out, and no examples or role models that can serve as beacons.
Any plan needs to start by articulating a vision, setting targets and milestones. For Bengaluru that vision must be centered around quality of life and a clear translation of what that means in quantitative terms. Things like target air quality, per capita potable water and energy availability, ambient noise targets, average traffic movement speeds in the city, share of public transport in people movement, waste management and recycling targets, open space to built-space/population ratios, affordable housing access, pedestrian accessibility, public safety and so on.
The rest of plan must define a detailed, step by step approach to achieving that vision and call out needed infrastructure, funding/financing needs as well as policy recommendations to enable such a path.
Meanwhile we continue to live in a make believe world of obtuse ‘plans’ on paper and complete anarchy on the ground. Where is the sanctity of the ‘law’ that these plans are supposed to become, once ‘notified’?
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article reflect those of the author and not necessarily the views of CfB