Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Road expansion plan ruffles feathers

Road expansion plan ruffles feathers

To make TDR widely acceptable, Palike must convince people about its advantages

Rohith BR



Ravi K, a resident of Old Madras Road, avoids the red marking on his compound wall. "Civic officials did it. I ignored it until somebody told me that the marking meant that a portion of my house would be demolished soon. I am worried," he says.
The BBMP's plan to widen 216 roads by acquiring 37,000 properties either completely or partially by offering transfer of development rights (TDR) as compensation has left residents in a state of shock. Anger and frustration mount as they are unable to digest the TDR formula.
Mohammed Ubaidullah, a tenant and hardware trader on Tannery Road, is one among them. A resident of the area for 12 years, he feels he is on the verge of losing his entire business to the road widening project. "The news of road widening and the term 'TDR' are driving me mad. If BBMP wants to acquire property, it should pay us adequate compensation," says he.
"When Namma Metro acquired land, the affected property owners got good compensation. Even the tenants of houses got money but the TDR may leave tenants hapless and homeless," says Ranjitha K, a resident of Banaswadi.
The BBMP is not bending an inch and has done very little to address such fears. It can, for instance, try to convince the people why TDR is feasible, beneficial, and workable. It can also make them realise that their fears originate from a lack of awareness of the whole concept.
BBMP, on its part, says it is meeting people. Its chief Engineer (Major Roads) Chikrayappa says the civic agency is holding meetings with property owners at micro level. "Those opposing the road widening plan should come up with practical solutions to the traffic problems the city is facing," he says.
The agency is not forcing anybody to buy the TDR idea. It's executing the project according to the procedure and guidelines, he says.
But civic groups and experts are questioning these very procedures and guidelines.
Sumitra Rao of Malleswaram Swabhimana Initiative says that before pushing through the project, the civic agency should conduct public hearing on the practical problems. "Without such hearings, the civic authority cannot announce and push for projects as if we are bound to obey them," she says.
Suresh K, a member of NGO, says even if the civic agency widens the roads, it will not help much as more vehicles will occupy the space within no time. "The only solution, I think, is quick implementation of mass transport projects," he says.
Residents need not be scared of TDR as it is a tool for land acquisition. But it is only an option and the civic agency can't force it on property owners, he says.
"If residents are not ready to give land or property under TDR, the civic agency has to acquire land under the Land Acquisition Act or any other act authorising land acquisition. And there will be option for compensation for residents then," he says.
"It (TDR as a possible alternative to monetary payment) is not possible in big cities like Bangalore because they are not giving any compensation. TDR is practically a worthless scheme," says eco activist Vinay Srinivas.
Amid this confusion, nobody seems to have come up with a plan to make TDR attractive as is the case in Mumbai. Last year, there was a talk of making BBMP zonal offices sort of a TDR market with a TDR register. There is no active TDR market in Bangalore and the builders who prefer TDRs do not know where to go and whom to chase.
Asked if builders will accept TDR, Ravindra Pai, managing director of Century Real Estate Holdings, says, "Absolutely. There should be a market for trading TDRs. The market for trading TDRs should be facilitated by the BBMP. Now if somebody wants to buy TDRs, it's difficult to get it. But if there is a market, TDR might become popular among land owners."
On whether the TDR is a plausible alternative to monetary payment, he says "Definitely. Monetary compensation given is very low. TDR will be preferred by land owners."
Even BBMP commissioner Bharat Lal Meena admits that "TDR needs to be made popular".
What makes TDR tick in Mumbai? The business attitude is different there. The demand for apartments is more. There's more vertical growth in Mumbai. Builders in Mumbai buy TDRs and build more flats; and make money. So what is the problem in Bangalore? People in Bangalore prefer to live in independent homes rather than in apartments and most of the properties to be affected by the BBMP project are the individual houses.
Is there a way out? "Today there is no clear cut opinion on whether TDRs are tradable or not We don't know whom to sell it or where to sell it. It can be a good alternative if there is a tradable market for TDRs," says lawyer Ravi Tej Rao of Crestlaw Partners.
Will builders accept the TDR? "You can't force TDR down the throat of a person. If there is a market, then people will decide whether to choose monetary compensation or TDRs. If the marketability of TDRs is done using proper guidelines, it can become an attractive option," he says.
Inputs from Zubin Jauhari, Suraksha P and Juwairia Mehkri. Manish and Maria Joybetter solution: Instead of widening the roads, the government should ban parking there and encourage people to use mass transport

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