The Bengaluru Master Plan for 2031 promises to equip the city to deal with the challenges that will come its way by 2031 – principally more people, causing more demand for living space and transport. There are plans for development of new mass transport options like LRT (Light Rail Transit), BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and Monorail along several major corridors alongside road and junction improvements.
But in this article, I want to step back from the issues concerning the city at large, and focus on the impact of the master plan on my own area of J.P. Nagar.
The strange case of missing road
The existing land use map produced by the Bengaluru Development Authority shows a road at the heart of J.P. Nagar that does not exist anymore!
The above figure, from BDA’s “Existing Land Use” maps shows a road circled in purple. It is meant to connect Marenhalli Road, close to Sangam Circle, to Kanakapura Road and onwards to the Outer Ring Road. Clearly, an important road, connecting several arterial roads, and meant to carry large volumes of traffic.
This figure shows a google map of the same area with the same road circled in purple. Interestingly, the road does not exist as shown in the BDA map. Firstly, a major chunk of the road is missing. Secondly, it does not connect to Kanakapura Road at all.
Just to make sure, I carried out a spot inspection of the area which confirmed the google maps’ version. I started at the point marked by the green circle. After verifying that the road did not in fact connect to Kanakapura Road, I headed towards Sangam Circle in the direction indicated by the arrow mark. As the photographs below show, a few hundred meters later, the road turns into a gravel road and construction site. Further along, it ends at a gate visible in the second photograph in the distance behind which a blue car is parked. Clearly, someone has fenced it off as private property, although it must form part of a road according to the plan. There is no access to Marenhalli Road or Sangam Circle, even for pedestrians, let alone vehicles.
In the absence of this road, the narrow Sarakki Main Road, which is barely wide enough for one lane in either direction, and moreover has extensive commercial development on both sides, is forced to carry most of the traffic
Firstly, the existence of this road in the “Existing Land Use” maps raises questions about the competence of the survey that BDA carried out to make these maps, and raises serious questions about the basis that BDA is using to make future plans. In addition to this, there were a few other lapses that I identified by comparing this map to google maps, which I was then able to verify by spot inspections.
More importantly, since the road continues to exist in the “Proposed Land Use” maps, one hopes that action will be taken to build the road by evicting those who have encroached on it in violation of the plan.
Mis-zoning in J.P. Nagar?
Zoning is meant to separate polluting industrial areas from residential and commercial areas, and to ensure optimum distribution of commercial, public utility and residential areas so that commercial areas and public services are accessible to residents, at the same time not causing undue noise and nuisance to residents.
The two figures show the existing land use (above) and the proposed land use (below) respectively. If you turn your attention to 9th Cross Road marked in purple, you will notice that in the existing land use map, the buildings on it are predominantly blue, indicating commercial use. In fact, there are several new commercial buildings coming up there this very moment. However, BDA has other ideas. They would like to rezone 9th Cross road, marked in purple, from a predominantly commercial street to a residential street. Notice that in the proposed land use map, the buildings around 9th Cross Road are predominantly yellow, indicating residential use.
For comparison, the figure below shows a google map image of the same area. The road in question, 9th Cross Road, is marked in purple. Existing and planned metro lines are shown in red.
The presence of multiple metro lines that can rapidly take passengers to all corners of the city creates the immense potential of helping this area move towards a car-free lifestyle which comes with concomitant environmental and health benefits. But for that to happen, it is essential for people to have shops in walkable distances, and walking facility to reach shops and stations. At present, 9th Cross Road serves this useful function.
Notice that unlike the major arterial roads around this area, 9th Cross Road is well-connected to the grid of local residential streets making it an ideal location for a pedestrian oriented commercial street. Moreover, the density of housing in this area is quite high. There are a few single houses, but increasingly most plots contain buildings with multiple dwelling units that end up having a higher density than even apartment tower blocks. For instance, next door to where I live is a 110 square metre (1100 square feet) plot with 4 units giving a density of nearly 364 units per hectare. In contrast, a new 25 floor skyscraper apartment tower right next to the Banashankari metro station only contains 94 units on a half hectare (1.22 acre) plot, a density of only 188 units per hectare.
That brings me to my final point – one of the important things missing in the plan for this area is improvement of the pedestrian environment. There is a lot of talk about road junctions, but sadly it appears as if the pedestrian is a lower priority for the planners than the automobile. At present, there are no facilities for crossing major roads.
Signalised road crossings must be provided every four hundred or so metres. Footpath surfaces are often uneven with missing tiles and blocks increasing the risk of injury. Wires can be found hanging from electric poles increasing the risk of serious injury for pedestrians, and more often than not, footpaths are taken over by hawkers or used as rubbish dumps. The authorities must take steps to address these issues and create a welcoming environment for pedestrians.
The benefits will be clear for all to see, namely the ability to support a higher density Bengaluru, but with fewer vehicles, fewer traffic jams and less pollution.