CAF sends inputs on Bengaluru master plan

The Citizen Action Forum (CAF) submitted their suggestions in response to BDA’s call for inputs on the revision of RMP 2015. They sent their letter to the Office of the Town Planning Section of BDA in early July.
 
Dear Sirs,
 
In our interaction with officers of BDA, we have been informed that the exercise mentioned above is a first effort in the preparation of Masterplan 2035 and that feedback on current Masterplan 2015 is a necessary first step.
 
At the outset we would like to submit that the making of such an important document as the Masterplan for Bangalore, requires extensive and intensive stakeholder discussions over a period of time and not just at the publication of the draft masterplan. This response by CAF is in assumption that BDA and Government of Karnataka will conduct such wide scale discussions prior to embarking, the actual exercise of making the draft masterplan 2035, and not restrict this to an advertisement in newspapers asking for suggestions.  
 
This note for brevity only highlights main issues from our side .It should not be construed that these are the only inputs. We would expect that through intensive discussions with CAF and other stakeholders a comprehensive list and directions would evolve.  
 
This note discusses the issue at hand in broadly two major areas.
 
a) Issues at a detailed plan level of masterplan 2015.
b) Macro and  process issues which should be followed in masterplan 2035.
 
It is assumed that BDA has on record the various inputs, grievances and details of public interest litigations against the masterplan 2015, as input towards a better masterplan 2035.To that extent, BDA should acknowledge that inputs have been coming in regularly ever since the draft masterplan 2015 was brought into public domain .As such this note will not delve too deeply into these aspects and assume these are already taken on record.
For the sake of completeness however the following documents are annexed.
i) PSS Thomas committee report which clearly states shortcoming of masterplan 2015, with citizen inputs as the source.
ii) Detailed note on of PSS Thomas committee recommendations, BDA’s response and compliance statement, and citizens’ analysis of shortcomings in BDAs compliance report. This pertains essentially to the committee’s inputs on residential areas and is part of the PIL against the masterplan.
Iii) Memorandum to the erstwhile Governor of Karnataka, titled “Protect our Homes”. This memorandum was signed by over 3000 citizens, and was submitted after the RMP was notified.
iv) Copy of The Public Interest Litigation and interim orders passed by the high court regarding green belt and residential areas.
 
We believe of prime importance in the perpetration of the masterplan 2035, is the process, a few very important prerequisites and definition clarity. These will be the fundamental basis on which a technical plan is finally evolved. Put another way, without these changes in the process and thinking we could again have a disputed and inefficient masterplan.
 
1)  Definition of masterplan
 
The masterplan 2015 promised to be an overall developmental plan for Bangalore, but quickly degenerated to be just a land use document. The next masterplan cannot be merely a land use document. Necessary legislation, administrative rules, and study methods need to be suitably modified as required. The masterplan needs to be able to clearly articulate concrete plans and action points for at least the following
a) 24 by 7 water supply, area wise
b) Electricity supply area wise
c) Transport, parking infrastructure and public transport plans.
d) Urban poor rehabilitation infrastructure.
e) Traffic management
2)  Mandated masterplan
 
Currently there does not seem to be a mandate for all civic agencies/service providers’ (BWSSB, Besom, BMTC .Traffic Police, Fire department etc.) to use the masterplan as the mandated developmental plan for Bangalore. Currently (masterplan 2015), only calls for opinions from other service providers.
 
In many cases, this reduces to a cursory examination of the masterplan by other stakeholders since; essentially the masterplan is not mandate for these providers as the principal planning and execution document.
 
The specific plans and requirements of these other service providers need to be a formal part of the masterplan exercise. This will lead to a masterplan developed as a true development plan with all stakeholders fully committed to its success. It will also greatly reduce the incidences of service providers not being able to provide the necessary infrastructure which the BDAs land use plan requires. Ideally they should be co signatories to the Masterplan.
 
3) Visioning
 
While there could be valid reasons to outsource the detailed masterplan to outside agencies, it is not a conducive exercise to outsource the essential vision document to third party. This needs to be developed by all stakeholders and in particular, the citizens of Bangalore.
 
The masterplan exercise needs to be broken up into at least 2 sequential components.
i) The visioning exercise, ending up with an all stakeholder agreement on the vision document.
ii) The detailed plans, with all service providers plans in built as a mandated plan.
 
Following this, the detailed plan can then be evaluated better against adherence to the vision document.
 
The BDA masterplan vis a vis the BMRDA structural  plan
 
Logically and also legally the erstwhile BDA masterplan needs to be a subset of the BMRDA structural plan for the larger Bangalore region. This has not happened in the past, and in fact the two plans were actually contradictory in the previous exercise. The BMRDA plan looked at decongesting Bangalore city by promoting activities around Bangalore (satellite towns etc.), while the BDA plan looked at concentration and intensification within municipal limits.
 
Until an all stakeholders agree to this structural plan, the Bangalore masterplan exercise of BDA is irrelevant and a criminal waste of taxpayers’ money. 
 
As of today, the structural plan of BMRDA has not come into being let alone a call for citizens input. As such, the exercise currently conducted by BDA is questionable.
 
4) Who does the masterplan /planning function?
 
Currently local elected representatives have a minimal or negligible role in development of masterplan. This in turn allows citizens a very minimal role in critique and contribution. By the 74th amendment, the planning function is a municipal responsibility and oversight. Also the Bangalore metropolitan governance bill (BMR) has already been conceived and waiting for debate and appropriate legislature.
 
Under the circumstances, BDA carrying out a masterplan exercise is contrary to both the 74th amendment and the proposed BMR.
 
Further as mentioned in earlier paras above, for a true developmental masterplan, covering all service providers, it is only an elected body (municipality), which has the jurisdiction and moral authority to enforce a masterplan.
 
We are aware that such a move needs legislative changes .However this does not stop, if we are true the spirit of our constitution, for the municipality via the BBMP to play a central role in visioning and evolution of the masterplan.
 
5)  A Definition issue :Mixed land use
 
One of the main areas in masterplan 2015, which caused a lot of heartburn for citizens, was the non-logical and faulty definition of the concept of mixed land use. As a result, subsequently in an interim order by the high court, commercial developments in a residential area have been stayed.
 
The mixed land use interpretation of BDA in RMP 2015, led to rules and laws which enabled commercial activity of a high nature in practically every street in Bangalore. This was after space provisions were made in residential areas comprising mutation corridors, commercial axes and hi tech zones. By a loose use of the concept of “ancillary usage” commercial activities were permitted even in the most peaceful residential areas.
 
A more logical interpretation, and one that is used globally, is to earmark very carefully restricted areas in a residential area for commercial activities and leave the rest for pure residential use, allowing to a peaceful, safe, non-congested neighbourhood which enhances quality of life.
 
As mentioned earlier, we look forward to a process of continuous interaction, rather than a one off input, in what must be considered the most important document for Bangalore.

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