Friday, November 25, 2005

Bangalore’s fate depends on a futuristic vision

Bangalore’s fate depends on a futuristic vision
Deccan Herald

It has been a great job to keep our ‘city beautiful’ from degenerating into a decaying city for which the credit should go to the ever friendly Bangalorean, says K Sukumaran.

A quarter of a century may not be too long a period in the life of a city, especially in the present millennium. Yet, this has been the story of growth in India’s ‘silicon valley’, though other cities like Hyderabad, Chennai or Gurgaon have been making rapid strides in a matter of ten years to snatch the prized name away.

Those who have lived in Bangalore for fifty years or more would recollect the landscape of this pensioner’s paradise with pain and pleasure.

Pleasure, because they enjoyed the name and fame namma bengalooru achieved in their lifetime. Pain, because the same Bangalorean became witness to deteriorating roads, chaotic traffic, increasing costs of living etc. And now, the resultant conflict between the IT industry and the Government, almost an annual affair.

From a sleepy town with hardly a few public sector undertakings like, the Indian Telephone Industries, Hindusthan Aeronautics Limited and Bharath Electronics, the city’s fame made it the popular destination to pioneers of information technology (IT), electronics & communication (EC) and industries world over, and to the Americans in particular. Bangalore grew into the IT Capital of the country.

The pensioners’ paradise established its ability to provide world class support to the rapidly growing computerisation in the developed countries through the efforts of a few innovators, aided by a favourable salubrious climate.

Infrastructure needs

With the kind of growth the city witnessed, the need for infrastructure like housing, transport, communication, roads, watersupply, drainage, uninterrupted supply of electricity etc arose much faster than the slow pensioners’ pace, that the city’s developers were used to.

The rapid growth in the computer industry was not matched by a corresponding growth in infrastructure, with the gap becoming wider and wider over the last three to four years.

With the infrastructural facilities getting worse by the day, friction arose between the citizens and governmental agencies, leading to political polarisation as well. The unprecedental influx of people to Bangalore called for more transport facilities, continuous road repairs, additional electric and water connections etc. Apart from those employed at industrial establishments and those working as service providers, students who joined the increasing number of professional colleges which sprang up in and around Bangalore too contributed to the strains on the infrastructure requirements. The average Bangalorean also started feeling the pinch of the fame he acquired from the city’s growth. The need to raise one’s voice to be able to enjoy some privacy and lung space was felt like never before. But there was little he could do to prevent the spiralling prices of real estate and even the daily needs.

Infrastructural growth

During the initial stages of growth, the growing sectors enjoyed various tax sops and their leaders received appreciation and support. With mass protests by various NGO’s about the increases in the costs of electricity, water, public transport and the like, it has become necessary for the Government to re-think of resources to finance the growing infrastructural needs.

Bangalore requires tons of money and speedy implementation of planned growth projects for managing the evergrowing number of vehicles on the roads, housing needs, water supply, drainage, electricity and the like.

Bangalore started bursting it seems, literally, and various decisions became necessary at the highest level.

The annual IT.Com event became the forum for venting the feelings of the IT sector. The recent meetings between the Chief Minister and the leaders of IT industry in the wake of the threatened boycott of the IT.Com has been the culmination of efforts to settle matters at various levels.

All the credit goes to the CM and the leaders of industries, that the meeting has reportedly been successful in ironing out the differences, leading to clearance of major projects to ease the infrastructural problems.

Major decisions

* Immediate completion of the airport road flyover to ease the terrible traffic congestion in the area.

* Improvement of major arterial roads in the ‘central business district’ for better movement of traffic.

* To expedite construction of an elevated road over the present Hosur road, from Silk Board junction to Electronic City on BOLT basis

* To kick-start the proposed Tech-city by the BDA

* Initiate steps to lay a five lane peripheral ring road

* Ban truck traffic for eight hours on the city roads, four hours each in the mornings and evenings

*Expedite the ELRTS project.

Has enough been done

Yes and No. The State Government appears to have done a few things within its powers. But the will of the State Government needs to be shown not only during emergencies, under pressure, but in a pro-active manner by creating a permanent machinery to handle Bangalore’s growing needs to retain its name and fame, and also to prevent the slowing down of momentum in growth and the consequent loss of the ‘Silicon Valley’ tag.

‘B’lore 2020’ vision?

A futuristic vision document and action plan is a pre-requisite for the emerging needs of cities like Bangalore. The important items that can be factored into such a plan are:

*Population growth and possible pressures on infrastructure requirements to support it from time to time

*Area to be serviced

*The vehicle population, its composition and pressures on roads in the city and suburbs

*Funds- needs, sources and uses

*Machinery for planning, implementation and review irrespective of political changes.

Formulation of a Bangalore Capital Region on the lines of National Capital Region implemented for Delhi may be a good idea. To begin with, Bangalore could pitch to be a support centre for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.


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