Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) has come out with the draft plan for Bengaluru, and has displayed the Revised Master Plan-2031 (RMP-2031) in its website. It’s time for interested citizens to understand and decode the RMP and comment in it, raise objections or give suggestions.
For starters, read all the chapters – www.bdabangalore.org/TPMRMP2031.html , or http://www.bdabangalore.org/RMP2031.html. The pages are in the high triple digits and it is heavy reading – so it will take time. But it is a necessary first step so that unlike the protests about Padmavati, we are commenting based on knowing about what’s contained in the document.
I suggest a speed reading in the first go to get a sense of what’s there – you can come back and read sections of interest in greater detail later.
One hears about due process not being followed in doing RMP-2031. Do we wait for that to be resolved?
There are two parallel tracks to responding to the RMP 2031 – one is the legal challenges on the process followed, and the other is suggestions/objections to the draft Plan.
The legal route is being followed up by civil society members, groups, activists and relates to the due process bit. The most important aspect here is that the law requires this RMP exercise to be anchored with the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC), a Constitutional requirement under the 74th Amendment and set up at the BDA level by the Government of Karnataka. It should have been another alphabet soup Bengaluru Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA), but discussing that would be digressing from the topic at hand.
The issue of MPC as prime anchor for the plan is before the High Court. For now, they have asked the government to consult the court before finalising the RMP. This track is better left to those who know the legal issues intimately and if you feel similarly, support any campaigns that seeks due process to be followed.
I want to understand what’s in the plan. How do I go about it?
Knowing your Planning District (PD) is a good place to start, after reading the document. There are 42 Planning Districts (PD), typically a mix of multiple wards put together with an underlying logic. Find the Planning District where your house is (charity begins at home!) and the PD where your workplace is – these are two areas you are likely to know well.
For the PD of interest, start by exploring the Existing Land Use (ELU) and Proposed Land Use (PLU) maps provided. The Land use refers to the purpose the land is used for, like residential, commercial, industrial, etc. You can then wander around exploring other Planning Districts of interest.
Why the insistence on looking at Land use maps (ELU and PLU) first, post the general reading?
Statutorily under the law, the RMP 2031 must deliver on two aspects – Land use (the purpose for which the land is designated) and Zonal Regulations (ZR), the rules that govern the plot. All else is ‘English’ – the concerned departments don’t need to read it and there is no guarantee that all the nice sentiments expressed will be implemented unless there is a mechanism. This mechanism must mandate, with penal consequences, all related agencies to follow the plan and deliver on the stated intent in this document. We don’t have this mechanism currently, hence it can for now be filed in the ‘Fiction’ section.
So, till reform happens to think of the city holistically and act on initiatives, we are just left with Land Use and Zonal Regulations that will determine our fate till 2031.
Is the ELU and PLU as given sufficient?
No. Not at all. PDF files are not the way these details should be set out. They should be spatial maps following GIS (another alphabet soup) protocols. Ideally, we should have a base layer map (Google, Open Street maps will do fine – with a search feature to find any place of interest), an ELU layer and a PLU layer. It would look something like this website, where you can see the RMP-2015 in a map format. BDA website also had it for RMP 2015 in a section called BDA- Drushti, which did a disappearing act a few years ago.
Within these layers we should have the option to switch on or off the various land use types (eg. Residential, commercial, etc.) so that we can see for ourselves what is shown as Existing and what is Proposed at the lowest parcel level of land. Now if you feel this is worth having, suggest it to BDA.
Meanwhile, explore the two PDFs for the planning district of your interest, since that’s what is available. My limited looking around in my area showed cartographic errors – road stretches were missing. One runs the risk of such roads being gobbled up by the properties around it since the RMP is the main legal reference document for what’s there. You need to explore and point out what you notice as errors. And, of course, what you feel is undesirable.
So how does one explore the ELU and PLU in the PDF formats provided?
Use the ‘+’ feature to expand the image. First see if the existing land use in your area of interest is in line with the ground reality. Often there are errors in the ELU – for instance, it might be a residential plot shown as commercial in ELU. That is erroneous and needs to be pointed out since the ELU is one of the basis for fixing PLU – a case is often made by the drafters that they just retained the ELU. But if that’s incorrect, it’s not a case of retaining the ELU but indicating the ELU erroneously.
Then move on to the PLU – too bad you can’t lay it one over the other in the format given (remember to ask for GIS format as a suggestion, if you think you need it!) But study the PLU shown – are you okay with it in terms of land use indicated? Are the public facilities provisioning (parks, playgrounds, bus terminals, etc.) fine vis-à-vis the needs of the area? Is there any unwanted commercialisation that you think will hamper the area? Make your suggestions.
What do I look for in the Planning District (PD) report?
You can now move onto exploring your Planning District land use maps which will provide you a bird’s eye view of the extended neighbourhood in map form – the ELU and PLU are just the maps in a larger format. Here you will have write ups of major challenges, what’s proposed to mitigate them, road development plan, junctions to be improved, lakes (if any) to be protected, public transportation, slum improvement, etc. You have better tribal knowledge of your planning district than most experts – study what is proposed (does not necessarily mean it will happen) and suggest what else needs to be done.
What do I look for in Zonal Regulations (ZR)?
These are the rules that will guide the building plans, the projects. Go through sections of interest depending on those applicable to your kind of plot and location. Make suggestions if you have other ideas.
Then apply your mind to the larger principles governing the ZR in the city. Give your opinion on them. For instance, are you okay with lakes, buffers being counted as open spaces (10-15% requirement) for computation? Are you okay with the kind of parking requirements being set out?
The plan suggests shrinking Floor Area Ratio (FAR or FSI) in Zone A to 1.5 (from 2-2.5 earlier) and expanding the extreme outer areas Zone B to FAR of up to 4 in select areas – what do you think of this move? And in the plan, do you see any mention of infrastructure development (roads, water, sewerage, etc.) preceding such permission?
The buffer zones have been adopted in toto from the NGT order – what happens to private properties in existence since time immemorial in these buffer zones? These are some examples to think about. You may agree with what’s suggested – if not, make your suggestions on alternatives that could be considered.
Is it now time to re-read the Vision and Master Plan chapters?
Yes. One had suggested jumping to land use and ZR since these were the statutory requirements to emerge from the plan. The Vision and Master Plan chapter provides context, rationale, sectoral analysis, etc. for the plan. This was suggested as deferred reading since as mentioned earlier, unless we have a mechanism to ensure that all departments follow and do not violate the plan, it is an academic exercise in writing nice things to have.
Apply your mind on whether you agree with the that vision has driven the three scenarios and the final selection of scenario 3 based on which RMP-2031 is prepared. Heritage for instance has considerable mention that is welcome but spare a moment on the details of how it will be preserved? It is good to know that 70% public transport is advocated but do we have a road map to get there? What parts of these two chapters lead you to pause and think about its implications? Do you feel comfortable about how it is finally going to be implemented? Multiple committees are the recommended panacea for all coordination and implementation. Will it work? These are just some pointers for you to ponder about.
Finally, the ‘what’s in it for me’ question
First check your own existing land use. Confirm it’s okay, else ask for changes. Then check your neighbourhood existing land use. Further, there could be map errors in your area, particularly missing road lengths, or wrong land usage – indicate the corrections required.
Check Proposed land use – yours and your neighbourhood. If any of it is a concern, point it out. Check if you are okay with the Zonal Regulations for your area like FAR / FSI. If FAR for your area looks lower, decide what you wish to request about it.
Finally provide innovative ideas about the plan with BDA for the various sub-heads in their suggestion form. Do send your suggestions. We need an engaged citizenry. Socialise what you have done with relatives, friends, neighbours, RWA. Get more folks to do it. Collectively it will make for a better Bengaluru.
Full disclosure: V Ravichandar is an advisor for Oorvani Foundation, that funds and manage the journalism part of Citizen Matters.