Consult citizens, take agencies on board while planning

Consult citizens, take agencies on board while planning

Under ground Cable_illustration

Last week, when a gas pipeline was damaged in Whitefield during the Namma Metro construction work, the lack of coordination between different government agencies once again came to the fore. Residents in the city have become accustomed to seeing such incoordination and have been seeking a solution for years now.

“The agencies expect residents to do all the coordination. The agencies do not talk to each other and only blame each other. It is an easy excuse for not getting the work done. We need a form of single point contact to coordinate between all the agencies,” says Ashok Sarath, President, Defence Colony Residents Association.

In a bid to provide this single point of contact, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had formed a coordination committee for all civic agencies and utility companies to come together and iron out any communication gaps. However, residents say that has not helped change the situation on the ground.

“One of my friends and a senior member of Citizens Action Forum (CAF) is on that committee but they have never had a meeting,” says Ramesh Dutt, President, CAF.

Dutt notes that committees such as these could be effective only if decisions were taken with the consensus of all members. “There is no point if the Chairman’s decision becomes the last word. All the members should be consulted and the majority’s decision must be considered. Moreover, decisions need to be taken at the local ward level. Instead of corporators calling the shots, situation at the ground level should be the deciding factor,” he says.

About 10 years ago, the state government had introduced a ‘Public Works Coordination Agreement (PWCA)’ which the involved agencies would sign for better coordination. This not only ensured that all the agencies involved were aware of the project, but also that proper approvals were taken before beginning work.

“The agreement would be of some use only if it is followed or in the case of non-compliance if the matter is taken to court. There is no point in simply writing an agreement down,” says Ramesh Dutt.

Sharath suggests that all the agencies should first plan the project together before beginning the execution of any work. “The bridge at Baiyappanahalli has remained incomplete for over six years as the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Defence Ministry could not coordinate. Even the bridge connecting the City railway station with the Metro station took over five years to complete,” he says.

It has become a common occurrence to see recently laid out roads being dug up by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) for laying water pipelines. It not only results in traffic congestions causing great inconvenience to the commuters but also leads to massive waste of public money.

“Before taking up any road repair work, the BBMP should take some time to coordinate with other parastatal agencies such as Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) and BWSSB. Also when other agencies are digging up the road, BBMP should charge them for redoing the road,” suggests Vignan Gowda, a member of Citizens for Sustainability.

One of the greatest concerns is the repair of a road once the work is completed. “The BBMP should ask for a security deposit or escrow funds from the agency before they begin work. If the work is found to be unacceptable. the money can be used for repairs,” says Sharath.

Besides the civic agencies, private telecom firms also dig up the road to lay Optic Fibre Cable (OFC) cables. “They are the worst as they dig up the road at night and often damage other utilities. Around three weeks back, a company began digging up a road which was laid not even a year back. They did not even have the permission to dig the road,” recalls Gowda.

When locals stopped the work, the company obtained the necessary permission after three days. “There needs to be a policy around them. Maybe, BBMP could allot a month every year when agencies and private companies does all the work they need to in an area. After this, they should not be allowed to touch the road again for the rest of the year,” Gowda suggests.