Friday, October 28, 2005

CDP 2005: Planning the city of the future

CDP 2005: Planning the city of the future
Deccan Herald

Lessons to be learnt from the 1995 CDP: Why has Bangalore’s present growth pattern led to an ‘Urban Sprawl’?

Why has Bangalore’s growth led to an ‘urban sprawl’? Has this happened naturally or is it the result of the previous urban planning policies?

The Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) is a key document in the planning of a city as it lays the foundation and parameter for the city’s development for the next ten years.

The 2005 - 2015 CDP, for Bangalore, should take into consideration the affects of the 1995 CDP and have a clear vision for the future.

The draft CDP 2005 has indeed attempted to do this and it is hoped that the finally approved CDP 2005 -2015 will help reverse the present ‘urban sprawl’ growth trend, which has been occurring for almost two decades.

Detrimental effect of 1995 CDP

The 1995 CDP attempted to decentralise growth from the Central Business District (CBD) to the outer areas, by allowing more built development in the outer areas compared to the CBD area.

The 1995 CDP provide for more built-up area through a higher Floor Area Ratio (FAR) in the then designated ‘sparsely developed’ outer areas, compared to the then ‘moderately developed areas’ and ‘intensely developed areas’ like M G Road (CBD area).

Now, after having followed this urban growth pattern for 10 years, what is the result of this policy on the city? It has led to the ‘sparsely developed areas’ ending up being more densely developed than the central areas.

This includes the newly formed layouts on the periphery of the city, where higher FAR is allowed compared to the city’s centre. The result is a classic case study in the incessant and continuous ‘urban sprawl’ growth, so prevalent in Bangalore today.

As such the centre of the city loses its focus and the ‘urban sprawl’ continues outwards, on and on. When and how would this outward ‘urban sprawl’ stop and be reversed?

History of Bangalore’s development pattern

The present urban planning pattern of Bangalore is mainly comprised of plotted developments (i.e single family individual plots / sites) with a very low density, mostly low rise developments. This pattern was handed down to us during the days of the British, when plots in Bangalore’s Cantonment district were comprised of large bungalows, each on a few acres land.

With the growth of the city and an increased demand for scarce urban land, especially from the 1970’s onwards, these large plots were divided into smaller single family sites (mostly ranging from 2400 sqft to 4000 sqft each), with even smaller fragmentations post the ‘80’s.

The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) still propagates this kind of a low density ‘sites and services’ development through its present/proposed layouts and recommends private citizens to follow its zoning and bye laws, mentioned in the 1995 CDP.

Impact of the present urban pattern of single family developments

The city as a growing entity is a living organism and therefore should have different models for its growth at different stages (i.e not try to keep the same development model always).

With the advent of Information Technology, in the 1990’s, and its acceleration, Bio Technology (BT) and international Business Processing Offices (BPO) in India, the city’s population growth has further accelerated.

So the single family / plotted development pattern in Bangalore, of the 1970’s and the 1980’s may not be good for today’s Bangalore (one of the fastest growing cities in Asia).

The impact of the single family plotted developments (layouts) in Bangalore over the last few decades are many,

n Low density development. For example the Arkavathy layout is planned on 2750 acres and contains just 20,000 sites (i.e a density of just 7.27 family sites per acre), 8000 of which are as small as 20ft X 30 ft. Another proposed BDA ‘mega layout’ plan on 5000 acres contains just 50,000 single family sites (see comparison with ‘group housing’ below).

n With the immense demand and shortage of urban space in our cities, our urban planning policies, which are not up to the mark, result in further ‘urban sprawl’ and increase commuting distances between places.

n Engulfing of the surrounding agricultural land, through continuous urban expansion is another problem

n Inefficient use of precious urban services like roads, telecommunication, electricity, water and sewage lines etc. compared to higher density urban development models.

n The model is expensive because this model utilises far more urban land and services than the high density model


n Develop urban planning policies which encourage and facilitate,

n Develop ‘Group housing’ projects (like row houses and apartment buildings) rather than single family plotted developments, as was previously done. Group housing provides much higher density, thus reducing the ‘urban sprawl’ and makes efficient use of urban services like roads, electricity, water and sewage lines, and therefore far more cost effective. They also provide for more open spaces that can be developed as parks.

A very senior architect friend, J M Benjamin, who has served the CPWD as chief architect, has spearheaded support for planning policies facilitating higher density ‘group housing’ over low density, uneconomical ‘plotted / single family site’ developments.

He demonstrates that on 5000 acres, one can support a population close to 5,00,000, with 75 per cent of the space reserved for landscaped parks and roads.

Compare this to above mentioned proposed BDA ‘mega layout’ plan proposing only 5000 single family sites. Given the current average family size of five, this would amount to just 25,000 people. What a difference in efficient use of urban land, services and cost!

The need of the hour is for people to switch over to higher density housing, to better use the already scarce urban land.

This is evidenced from the fact that on many single family sites, one can find multi family dwellings. Even though the 1985 and 1995 CDPs did not encourage multi family dwellings, the needs of the people dictated and continues to dictate this trend.

Shouldn’t city planners learn from this? The CDP should cater to the needs and requirements of the people, keeping in mind the present and future growth trends of the city. Don’t such citizens’ responses offer a natural guideline to tackle the challenges of managing the growth in the city?


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