Monday, December 14, 2009

A 5-point wishlist for our city

A 5-point wishlist for our city

V Ravichandar, chairman of Feedback Consulting, and a civic expert, believes that together we can make Bangalore a truly global city. He draws out a five-point wishlist that defines the contours of future Bangalore

Predicting the city's future looking out of the rear view mirror is hazardous. While the past is a good guide of our generation's follies (and the mistakes to avoid), the future deserves a better chance. There are 2 ways to go about thinking about the contours of Bangalore's future. One is to look towards the 'horizon' and make inspired, hopeful guesses from the current quagmire we see ourselves mired in. The problem with predicting from where we are standing is that it provides a very limited, erroneous view of the future possibilities. The other option, which this author prefers is to envision a future say in 2020 and 'fold the future in' to decide what is needed to match the reality of 2009. So here is a list of 5 wishes about a future day Bangalore and what is required to make it happen.
1 The region as the new urban entity. Bruhat Bangalore has to give way to viewing a larger regional area that goes beyond the current thinking of a few satellite centres around Bangalore. Unless this forms part of the larger vision, any incremental fixes to making Bangalore more livable will lead to further influx causing infrastructural collapse and deterioration in quality of living. One envisions a 'RURBAN' (Rural-Urban continuum) area spreading maybe over 5000 sq kms that encompasses Mysore, Tumkur and 4-6 other urban clusters. The future lies in having 'live and work' clusters that are urban nodes within the regional network.
Any two nodes in the network should have high speed connectivity (rail and road) that allows travel (including international airport access) within 2 hours.
The political leadership and the system will need a huge mindset change since it challenges all conventional thinking about jurisdictional boundaries and administration planning.
2 Re-architect local city governments. The State has to let go of its considerable powers vis-à-vis cities like Bangalore to a third tier of city government that is in control of its own destiny and works within an overall regional framework. Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco was here. His counterpart to make Bangalore a sister city was the Chief Minister! Oft quoted role models are Rudy Guiliani, former New York Mayor and Ken Livingstone, former London Mayor, both directly elected and accountable to citizens. Need one say any more? However, this is easily said than done. There is no reason why the City MLAs, MPs and the State leadership will let go of their existing powers. The upcoming city corporation elections without implementing the Kasturirangan committee recommendation is a sign of the difficulties we face. Unless citizens demand the handover it is unlikely to happen. This can be aided by working with enlightened politicos who see the local government route as their passport to greater State and National glory.

3 Integration across civic agencies for Outcomes is imperative. We have Chief Minister and Chief Secretary as principal city integrators across departments reflect a sorry state of affairs. What is needed for all time is an outcome focused governance and delivery mechanism. Citizens are concerned with saving travel time, road safety, less pollution, bribe free civic services, access to basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity, public transport, etc. Many of these cut across multiple agencies that have a silo orientation and resist marching to a common 'outcome conductor'. Agencies like the BMLTA for coordinating land transit are a welcome first step but they need to be given more 'teeth' and headed by Additional Chief Secretary level administrators. For this to happen, citizens must demand accountability of their political leaders and government agencies in terms of outcome implementation.

4 An Inclusive outlook is critical. Bangalore needs to work for all its citizens including the urban poor and under privileged. For what chance of the middle class dream to materialise if the healthy maids, drivers, vegetable vendors, garbage handlers and more do not make it on time day after day. Spare a thought for their lives and you will see the need to put them at the centre of city planning. Priorities will gravitate towards drinking water, clean sanitation, safe pedestrian walkways, reliable public transport, low cost housing, street lighting, etc. All of these are the basic building blocks of a more livable Bangalore. For this to happen, politicians need to seriously implement their election promises and the middle class / industry needs to rein in demands that have an elitist streak. One way for this to be expedited is for the government to encourage collaborative platforms to improve the city livability.

5 Be guided by what is relevant for Bangalore. Each city has its unique ethos that needs to be nurtured going forward rather than a blind aping of other cities that have a different context. Jeb Bruggman in his book The Urban Revolution makes a strong case of community / institutional based urbanism over the western concepts of master planned development and industrial city models. This implies allowing neighbourhood choices and decision making within an overarching institutional framework. If citizens wish to walk and cycle, the infrastructure provisioning should focus on this aspect. This coupled with increased 'door to door' public transport solutions will mitigate the need to use private vehicles allowing for a lower carbon footprint. Preserving parks, reclaiming public spaces for citizens, mixed land use, integrating hawker zones, promoting places for arts and culture, etc. will go towards making Bangalore among the Top 10 livable cities in a globalised world.


At Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 12:37:00 PM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Cotton Yarn said...

its really very big wish list here. thanks for sharing this with us.


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