Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Land will not come easy for cash-starved BBMP

Land will not come easy for cash-starved BBMP

Leo F Saldanha



If the TDR plan of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) fails, then it may have to resort to land acquisition to widen roads. But acquiring land is not as easy as it seems. The recent Supreme Court judgment in the Arkavathy Layout case has made it clear that such acquisitions should not be a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
If we assume that the BBMP will acquire land to widen roads, as the TDR scheme seems to have failed grossly, then it will need to have the cash ready to compensate those who lose property. The 91 roads proposed for widening in the first two phases of the TDR notifications issued in 2005 involved about 35,000 properties. If we assume that each property is valued at Rs50 lakh, then the BBMP should have Rs17,000 crore in its kitty to acquire property to widen all these roads. If the cost of civil work — Rs9,000 crore is the conservative estimate — then the cost of road widening would be a whopping Rs28,000 crore.
The BBMP seems determined to widen roads, but it will be doing so in contempt of the Karnataka high court. The court, in its judgment of March 16, 2009, in a PIL (WP 7107/2008) filed by ESG (Environment Support Group), categorically stated that road widening could be undertaken only if the BBMP "strictly followed" the provisions of Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act (KTCPA) and the Karnataka Tree Preservation Act.
The fact is that the BBMP has not complied with this direction. The Bangalore Development Authority has, in fact, in response to an RTI application, confirmed that no road-widening scheme has been framed as per Chapter V of the Act.
The administration should take lessons from the world over in urban planning. In many densely populated cities worldwide, road-widening has been abandoned and instead intelligent and lasting solutions have been opted for. These include making inner city zones pedestrian-friendly (widening pedestrian walkways), forcing senior public officials and judges to pool their cars or use cycles and buses; making cycling possible; instilling driving discipline (far cheaper and achievable than any big construction project); making bussing around the norm than the exception; and, most importantly, forcing people to drive less and walk, cycle or use public transport more.

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