Out of sight, out of BBMP's mind? B'luru infra crumbles

Out of sight, out of BBMP's mind: Bengaluru's peripheral areas beg for better infrastructure

The moment one steps out to visit a glitzy shopping mall or a one-stop supermarket, they come across roads that are no better than dirt tracks

TenderSURE or otherwise, most of Bengaluru's roads are riddled with potholes. Credit: DH File Photo

The Covid-19 pandemic and the work-from-home culture have exposed the stark differences of infrastructure development that exist between Bengaluru's core and peripheral areas.

With a large number of people spending most of their time in their neighbourhood because they no longer have to commute to work, peripheral areas are buzzing with activity and are emerging as commercial hubs in their own right. Chinks are, however, showing in their new avatar. The moment one steps out to visit a glitzy shopping mall or a one-stop supermarket, they come across roads that are no better than dirt tracks, mounds of uncleared garbage, clogged drains and dysfunctional (or in some cases non-existent) streetlights). 

True, all these problems existed before the pandemic. It's also true that local residents have been flagging them for years. But before the pandemic, most of these peripheral areas were preferred mostly for cheap housing. As these neighbourhoods develop commercially, clamour is growing for improving their infrastructure. The ongoing "smart city" works in the core areas show how bad the peripheral localities look. The incessant rains in October have only worsened the problem, exposing the poor quality of whatever little works were carried out in peripheral areas years ago. A recent survey found that peripheral areas account for nearly three-fourth of potholes across the city.

Also Read | BBMP pulls up Smart City for shoddy roadworks in CBD

Residents of peripheral areas are speaking up. They want the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the state government to do something about the crumbling infrastructure and do it fast. 

For years, every developmental project — whether it's TenderSURE/white-topping of roads, signal-free corridors, desilting of drains and elimination of black spots — was carried out only in the core city areas. 

"Infrastructure in outer wards is pathetic. Most of the funds are spent on core city areas. While we hardly have a proper footpath, lakhs of rupees are spent to redevelop footpaths in the core city. While roads in the CBD are being developed under TenderSURE and white-topping projects, outer wards have the same dirt tracks," laments Abdul Aleem, of Changemakers of Kanakapura Road, an umbrella group of over 80 resident welfare associations. 

Residents of peripheral wards have to resort to protests for even the basic road repairs, he adds.

Also Read | BBMP swamped by criticism over wobbly retention walls

None of the 38 roads developed under TenderSURE is from the outer areas. These 38 roads (a total network of 21.06 km) were developed at a staggering Rs 224 crore, the tax money coughed up by those mostly residing in peripheral areas. 

Subhash Shetty, a resident of Nagasandra, says the situation in the outer areas of northern and western Bengaluru is better left unsaid. He says the Peenya Industrial Area, one of the largest in Asia, still lacks basic infrastructure. "I wonder why the authorities have not been able to improve these outer areas when they have developed core city localities." 

A resident of Gottigere, on the edges of Bannerghatta Road, says projects sanctioned for outer areas take years to see the light of day. 

This visible disparity between core and peripheral areas has always left officials and politicians at loggerheads. Officials blame the lack of political will and insufficient funds. A senior BBMP engineer says the available funds are barely enough to maintain the wards, let alone take up big projects in outer areas. "We propose projects in all the zones but political will also plays a major role," the engineer said. 

Abdul Wajid, opposition leader in the previous BBMP council, suggested that development projects "in all parts of the city" were taken up as long as the BBMP council was in place. With the council dissolved since September 2020, there has been no development, he added. "We had the vision to improve the peripheral areas and would have developed them had the council been in place," he claims. 

What BBMP chief says

BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta, however, dismisses the charge that only core city areas are getting the funds. "It is a misconception that outer areas are being neglected. I have personally visited peripheral areas like Mahadevapura, Bommanahalli, Thalaghattapura or wards in western parts of the city. Works have been sanctioned in all the zones. The problem in these outer wards is that they were unplanned. We have been solving these civic problems and pushing other agencies to complete their works as early as possible so that we can develop roads, instal streetlights and carry out other works," he explained.

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