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Revised Master Plan: scrap it, start over

DH News Service, Bengaluru, Feb 1 2018, 0:15 IST

The confusion and controversies surrounding the Revised Master Plan (RMP) 2031 for Bengaluru do not augur well for an organised and sustainable growth of the city. Urban experts and common citizens alike have slammed the document as "slip-shod" and "unworkable" and demanded that the Bengaluru Development Authority, which has prepared the RMP, scrap it completely and prepare a new master plan after consulting all stakeholders. It's not just that the master plan is filled with loopholes, its very core is flawed as it is derived from a singular focus on land use, that too based on flawed maps and documents, without considering a city's most important requirements - water, power, transport and sustainability issues in a holistic manner. Analysts have pointed out that the whole plan is merely jugglery on paper as it makes projections of land use when several roads have not even been shown in the "existing land use" columns. The RMP makes a hollow claim that the mixed land use strategy of the previous, equally flawed, master plan has been given a re-look and "a controlled approach using the space standards and road width has been proposed to limit the intrusion of commercial activities in pure residential areas." It makes it look as though the government has a strategy to shrink existing, and unwanted, commercial establishments and reclaim residential areas. But that's a lie.

The RMP would have made more sense and would had have a better chance of succeeding had the authorities involved representatives of parastatal agencies like the BBMP, the city's water board, the electricity supplier, the transport providers BMTC and Namma Metro, and the traffic police, right from the conceptual stage and obtained their concurrence and commitment to the plan. The government also faltered by not entrusting the preparation and implementation of the plan to the Metropolitan Planning Committee, a statutory body, created for the said purpose. Now, the government proposes to set up a coordinating body of bureaucrats - which does not involve either elected representatives or independent experts - to oversee implementation of the plan. All of this is a recipe for disaster.

The BDA should seriously consider the 9,000-plus suggestions and objections received from civil society organisations and the general public, as Chief Minister Siddaramaiah promised, restart the exercise from scratch and overhaul the plan and its implementation process. The government and the agencies will do well to put their heads together to come up with a people-friendly plan to improve livability. Importantly, if any plan is to work, the same set of bureaucrats cannot be in charge of both planning and implementation and monitoring, as in the RMP.

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