Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Honey, there goes the quiet neighbourhood

Honey, there goes the quiet neighbourhood

Swathi Shivanand

Why are commercial complexes being allowed to come up in residential areas?

# Repeal of Section 14 A of Town and Country Planning Act favoured
# Organisations say CDP has been implemented more in violation

BANGALORE: Of the many images the name Bangalore evokes today, those that come to mind immediately are traffic-choked roads, overflowing drains and waterlogged areas.

And even as plans are chalked out to tackle these apparently intractable problems, one of the primary causes for them remains relatively unspoken — blatant and unrestricted change of land use.

Changes in land use have often been made under Section 14A of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act. This section empowers officials to use discretionary powers if it is in the "public interest."

Committee report

The P.S.S. Thomas Committee, set up to examine objections received for the upcoming master plan, has criticised section 14 A as prone to gross misuse. It has called for its repeal and said that permitting change in land use merely on the payment of the stipulated fee is contrary to the principles of town planning. For example, commercial complexes are allowed to come up in residential areas, increasing traffic flow and burdening the narrow streets. Green belt and lake areas are converted into housing layouts with complete disregard for the natural topography, causing flooding during the rains.

Master Plan

The Comprehensive Development Plan 1995, which is the blueprint for the city's planners, has been implemented more in violation than in enforcement, say civil society organisations, pointing to the large-scale commercialisation of residential areas such as Malleswaram, Koramangala and Sadashivanagar.

The next master plan is in the making. The P.S.S. Thomas Committee states that the CDP 1995 encouraged conversion of residential plots to commercial by allowing a higher Floor Area Ratio for commercial buildings. "This was double incentive to go commercial because the sites were located attractively in affluent neighbourhoods on prime roads," the committee noted.

Court judgment

"Despite the Supreme Court judgment stating that the BDA does not have the authority to change land use except under special circumstances, the planning authority continues to do so, perpetuating more mistakes," says Major Pramod Kapur of Koramangala Initiative.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court in its February 2, 2006 decision said that the BDA cannot change land use, unless such changes are due to a) topographical or cartographical or other errors and omissions in the Master Plan b) due to failure to fully indicate the details in the plan c) changes arising out of the proposals in the Master Plan.

But citing public interest allowed in section 14 A, the BDA had allowed for changes in land use, even though these changes must not be contrary to the development envisaged under the Master Plan, says Vijayan Menon, another member of the Koramangala Initiative.

The Existing Land Use Survey of 2003, conducted by the BDA, shows that area under Parks and Open Spaces was a mere 2.8 per cent of the BDA's 1,279 sq. km. when the 1995 Master Plan had allocated 8.7 per cent — down by six per cent. The area under Transport and Communication also fell short at 13.9 per cent as compared with 20.7 per cent allocated under the CDP. "Thus there are far fewer parks and open spaces, and far less area under roads and transport facilities than had been planned. These are important shortfalls in the achievement of CDP 1995, and have serious impact on transport in particular, and quality of life in general," says the Thomas committee.


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