Designed and doomed

Designed and doomed

Designed and doomed

Mammoth multi-crore rupee infrastructure projects are supposed to last for decades. Traffic projects, especially, are supposed to be scientifically and futuristically designed to decongest the roads and be built strong and safe. Not in Bangalore.

If something is missing in the infrastructure projects of India’s “intellectual capital” –– Bangalore –– it is the “intellect.” From lack of commitment to nexus between contractors and officials to lobbying, nothing seems to be aiding the citizens. The Bangaloreans’ muted protests go in vain and they are not even consulted before these multi-crore rupee projects are undertaken.

Thanks to this patently undemocratic approach, Bangaloreans are left with projects galore that have failed to meet the purpose for which they were originally built. Infrastructure experts are convinced that unscientific planning and contractor lobbying are the main culprits.

“We have to first break the nexus between contractors and officers involved in clearing and supervising projects from our (Government’s) behalf. Until then Bangaloreans will have no respite from their money being wasted on some ‘needless’ and faulty structures,” says one of them.

A close look at four infrastructure projects in the City, the National College flyover, the KR Puram cable bridge, the Cauvery Junction magic box and the Dairy Circle flyover starkly bring out this disconnect between design and utility.  

Lack of vision

Some BBMP officials themselves admit that “there is no real vision before planning or sanctioning of most projects.”

The National College flyover is a classic example. Recalls an officer: “Generally, we have such structures for roads that records at least 10,000 passenger cars per hour (PCPH). But when this project was sanctioned, the number was only 2,750. The road, in fact, did not even call for a signal as that would have needed the road to have 5,000 PCPH.”
This then, is a clear case of a nexus between contractors and the authorities, who had, without any vision cleared the project. The contractor is now blacklisted.

“Is blacklisting the contractor an answer to the wastage of crores of our money on a needless project that cannot even be destroyed by us now,” asks an angry resident of Basavanagudi, Shreya Krishnamurthy.

M N Sreehari, Advisor to Government of Karnataka on Traffic, Transport and Infrastructure and Expert member, ABIDe, is brutally honest. “There is no point looking for any vision or mission when one looks at these projects. It is all only about the money,” he says.

“Show me one structure in this City that can convince you that the ‘City planners’ have had the foresight required for the next 25-30 years,” he challenges. In most cases, different departments plan for a project and a wholly different entity is in charge of execution. Sreehari takes the case of the Magic Box: “I call it the tragic box as it has not solved any purpose. It has created more problems.” The magic boxes are only 3.5 metre in width and are placed in the wrong location. “The road that was going straight to Mekhri Circle was unnecessarily, in a very arbitrary manner, obstructed with this, creating more problems,” he points out. The lack of public consultation is another appalling factor. For instance, the protests by Basavanagudi residents were completely ignored by the authorities who felled several trees to install the National College flyover. Five years later, does the Palike have an explanation why it spent nearly Rs nine crore for a project that no one except certain vested interests wanted?

Individuals often push these projects. Former Commissioner of BBMP, S Subramanya, was instrumental in promoting the magic box technology. The Rs one-crore Cauvery Junction Underpass today stands as a commuter’s nightmare, even as buses and other bigger vehicles find it tough negotiating the narrow passage.

Three years later, many feel the project could have been avoided. Says a senior BBMP engineer: "The Palike should have waited for a while before coming out with such a project because the erstwhile royal family of Mysore had agreed to part with a portion of the land near the BDA circle. A long flyover could have been built on that land. We would have even avoided the over-bridge near Windsor Manor." But all these suggestions are in hindsight. A suggested corrective surgery on this project would mean removing both the over-bridge and the underpass and building a flyover up to Mekhri Circle. All this would mean spending more money. Yet, in a City replete with structures that have inherent design flaws, is all this mess surprising at all?