Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Involve citizens in framing policies

Involve citizens in framing policies


AS Kodanda Pani

Governance of a metropolitan city is a difficult task with its attendant problems like shortage of potable water, traffic congestion, too many unauthorised developments, etc. The government of Karnataka is considering organising a system for better governance of Bangalore, which has a population of about 8.5 million.
The state government had constituted the Agenda for Bangalore Infrastructure and Development Task Force (ABIDe) to advise it on strategies to improve the city. In 2009, ABIDe published its draft recommendations in four parts, of which the first part was 'Govern Bangalore'.
The document suggested that the BMRDA must be the urban planning authority under a comprehensive legislation to supersede/encompass legislation like the BBMP Act and BWSSB Act. It proposed to withdraw BDA's planning functions in the metropolitan area covering 1,279 sq km in the Bangalore Metropolitan Region (BMR) covering Bangalore Urban and Rural districts. BBMP was to be entrusted with planning functions in its area under BMRDA's control, in addition to its maintenance functions.
All the existing local planning authorities of surrounding towns like Nelamangala, Hoskote and Anekal were proposed to be abolished, and town municipal councils to be entrusted with planning functions as per BMRDA regulations.
I would like to mention here that the BDA was constituted to combine planning and development functions, as it was becoming difficult to co-ordinate activities of the Bangalore City Planning Authority and the CITB, Bangalore. The ABIDe recommendation to withdraw BDA's planning functions in the metropolitan area will again create co-ordination problems between the planning and development agencies.
Water supply and underground drainage was earlier looked after by the Bangalore City Corporation. BWSSB was constituted as a specialised agency to take up major water supply projects and provide water to the rapidly growing city, and sewerage network to extended areas. ABIDe's recommendation to bring this agency under BMRDA is not desirable. The advantage of a specialised autonomous agency will be lost if BWSSB is made a department of BMRDA.
The BMRDA, constituted in 1986, is ineffective as the planning authority of BMR. It was neither able to prepare the "structure plan" of the region for many years, nor could it prevent unauthorised developments there. BDA and other civic agencies in the region ignored BMRDA and were dealing directly with the government. With such capability, BMRDA will not be able to control its problematic activities like water supply and sewerage, as suggested by ABIDe.
BBMP as a planning agency too is not desirable, as citizens are aware how ineffective the civic body has been in controlling unauthorised constructions. The town planning section of the BBMP is busy sanctioning building plans, and will not carry out planning functions.
The recommendation to entrust planning functions to town municipalities and village panchayats is also incorrect, as we are aware of the illegal sanctions given to buildings and layouts by them.
As citizens are affected by impractical policies, it is desirable that ABIDe's recommendations are reviewed and suggestions of citizens' action forums and the public are invited to frame a correct urban policy.
The writer is an urban planner and civic analyst


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