Sunday, August 22, 2010

City must set its aim at London and beyond

City must set its aim at London and beyond

Bangalore's weather is its trump card, the public transport system is its Achilles' heel, says Lambeth mayor Neeraj Patil



Neeraj Patil, who has his roots in Gulbarga, is now into his second term as mayor of Lambeth borough, UK. During his stay in Bangalore over the past fortnight, Patil has observed that Bangalore is head and shoulders above many global cities but has a long way to go nevertheless. Speaking to DNA.Sunday, he said while Bangalore's weather is its trump card, the public transport system is its Achilles' heel. Also, unlike Bangalore, where the green cover has been compromised with every passing year in the guise of development, it's increasing in developed cities such as London.
Room for small businesses
Bangalore has always been supportive of small and medium businesses, but London has a 'supermarket culture' and a handful of companies control over 90 per cent of the businesses. Bangalore offers opportunities for entrepreneurship and this is a good sign for development. This must be factored in while drawing up urban development plans.
Bangalore has a variety of commercial establishments that provide employment. London must take a leaf out of Bangalore's book in this regard.
Infrastructure and road-widening
Bangalore's stumbling block is infrastructure. Traffic snarls, bad roads, lack of parking facilities and public transport, and an ever-increasing number of vehicles are major issues.
In London, cycling is the most popular mode of transport and there are dedicated cycling tracks and maps.
To improve infrastructure, roads must be widened. Although controversial, there is no alternative for road-widening and if needed, the government must buy properties, but only after providing adequate compensation (buy land above market value and not at registration value).
Also, the local council should ensure students get adequate schooling and employment facilities.
The administration should provide all facilities to citizens and ensure that roads are well maintained.
Solutions to make Bangalore better
A good public transport is key. The Metro project is very important and more routes must be added to the network, which should eventually go underground such as the subways in London and New Delhi.
The number of public buses must be increased and usage of cars should be discouraged by levying congestion charges and high parking fee. But first, the public transport — taxis, buses and Metro — must be good. Traffic violators must be punished. In London, violators cannot duck not paying parking violation tickets.
Balanced development and greenery
A senior politician who recently visited London enquired about how many trees were being lost to 'development'. The answer was the city's green cover has been increasing at a rate of 1,000 each year. But in Bangalore, it's reducing.
There is a need to post a 'tree sergeant' in every ward. They should keep records of trees in each ward and those who want to chop a tree must get permission. The tree warden should also ensure the trees are checked annually.
Bangaloreans must not chop trees, even if it's in their own backyard. Proactive measures must be taken to plant more trees in public places.
The government should formulate a holistic urban development plan and adhere to it. In London, the plan is strictly implemented with help from civil society.

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