Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Experts frown on road widening plan

Experts frown on road widening plan

Palike's vision not broad enough to make Bangalore a top class city

Vaishalli Chandra



While residents and civic groups are fuming over the BBMP's road widening plan by making use of transfer of development rights (TDR), planners and architects feel it is not a solution to traffic woes. They feel that due to their skewed vision to create a world class city, civic authorities are taking an easy way out.
"Their vision of having a world class city is to have wide roads with easy accessibility of vehicle movement," says architect Vijay Narnapatti. This makes them blind to other options.
"There is a choice. We need to start questioning why the authorities feel that there is no choice, when there is a choice. The government can make that choice," he says.
The TDR option may not be viable for those with smaller plots along the roads. Most old establishments run on such plots and the road widening plan will result in a huge loss of livelihood.
Moreover, the government should involve citizens in the planning process. If TDR has to work for the people, it should be first tested in an area. Authorities should inform the local residents about the project, how the TDR works, how the plan is going to affect their lives and what are the options left for them. Citizens will be neglected if authorities standardise TDR by taking the city as a homogeneous entity, he says.
The confusion prevailing over TDR is due to the authorities' failure to give them the right information. Meanwhile, fear builds up in people's minds as officials go on putting the red markings on property located along the roads. Vijay feels that not all such road widening projects should be given a go-ahead. "Each project's viability should be individually ratified," he says.
Another serious concern is related to the impact such a big project will have on environment.
"According to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006, such projects call for an EIA report," says Vinay Sreenivas, member of Hasiru Usiru, a green NGO.
Apart from environmental concern, one has to think about the social impact the project will have on housing and livelihood. In fact, there is a civic team to assess the social impact of such projects. "BBMP has a technical advisory committee (TAC) which looks into all projects worth more than Rs2 crore. TAC needs to look into the social cost benefit analysis of all these projects," he says.
Architect Meeta Jain feels that criticising such projects is quite easy. "However, a society should collectively question our dependence on vehicles," says she. She fears the road widening plan will take away from us whatever little heritage we have along these roads that are marked for widening.
Instead of focusing on providing motor accessibility to stretches like Avenue Road, she feels the road should be preserved for a different experience. For instance, walking on such a road will help one appreciate the city's culture. "The city has a good cycling culture and the climate is apt for encouraging such a mode of commuting," she says.
Instead of widening most roads, a detailed study should be done to identify some areas for such a project. The rest of the areas should be turned into cycle or walking zones, she adds.
Residents need to get past the fear and assert their rights. Advocate Sunil Dutt Yadav has a suggestion for those who feel they have been tricked or misled.
"Send a notice to the BBMP rejecting the TDR and file a suit for injunction," he says. However, the suit cannot be filed collectively. It has to be filed individually.

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