Planning, what's that?

Planning, what's that?

''Planning? What planning?'' Now, that’s an almost predictable response when you ask an infrastructure expert about how much brainstorming, research and public consultation happens before a public project is cleared and implemented in Bangalore.

Forget the experts, even some Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials admit there is no real planning. When they talk only about a “Revenue Model” and not a “Utility Model” while deciding on a project, you’d know where the priority lies.

There is a world of difference between the two models. Explains M N Sreehari, Advisor to the Government of Karnataka on Traffic, Transport and Infrastructure and expert member, ABIDe, “In the revenue model, the ‘people’ involved with the project are bothered about gains, not about how useful the project is. In the utility model, it is the other way round.”
But if you thought the mandatory pre-project “Feasibility Study” by the BBMP and other civic agencies will ensure that the taxpayers’ money is not misused, think again. For, there are several instances where the consultant, supposed to be a third party independently conducting a study, brings out wrong facts to push a project forward, even when it is not required.

For proof, consider the consultants who conducted the feasibility study for the Basavanagudi National College flyover. They reportedly exaggerated the number of vehicles on the road to facilitate the flyover there. The feasibility study claimed the road recorded 10,000 passenger cars per hour (PCPH) while the actual figure is around a much less 2,750. The consultants are now blacklisted and the project has earned the dubious reputation as the city’s “biggest road hump.” But “can we now afford to demolish a structure like that worth over Rs 25 crore. This is the tragedy,” asks Sreehari.

Palike has no traffic expert

Although most of the BBMP projects are related to roads and traffic, the Palike has no “traffic expert.” “There is nobody to foresee the requirements for them because they have no expert onboard. Ad hoc is the best adjective to describe the functioning of the BBMP,” notes an infrastructure expert.

Continuing its efforts to expose the shortcomings of such projects, and hoping that future projects do not follow the same pattern, Deccan Herald took a closer look at four projects: the pedestrian underpass near Raj Bhavan, the BDA flyover on Airport Road, the Indiranagar flyover and the Sirsi Circle flyover. While the project near Raj Bhavan is the most scrutinised for its absolute lack of worth, the other projects barring the Indiranagar flyover, reflects bad planning. Like most underpasses in the City, the Raj Bhavan pedestrian underpass is left wanting for proper maintenance and security. Result: Footfalls are minimal.

“It is a wrong place to have a project like that; we needed that near R C College or Minerva Circle, not Raj Bhavan. How many people do you see walking on that road on a daily basis, probably 10,” a design expert points out.

If the underpass was not required at all, the case of the Sirsi Circle flyover, the longest in the City for a very long time now, is one of inadequate planning. The flyover has now become obsolete as there was not enough foresight and planning. The approaches to the flyover are all cramped for space, eating into all the time that was probably gained on the flyover. Also, experts note that the agencies should have stuck to the original plan and extended the flyover beyond Hudson Circle and Chord Road. This would have kept the project alive for more years. Besides, allowing trucks and buses and tongas does not help traffic on the flyover. Some of the private buses actually have stops on top of the flyover, hindering free flow of traffic.

On the BDA flyover, experts feel it is more a bane than a boon to address the heavy traffic on Airport Road. “The problem with that flyover is that there is no scope to widen or extend it. So, it is becoming a constraint on the road. Very soon we will have about 40,000 vehicles plying only to the airport, add the highway traffic to that and see how useful this flyover will be. “Not at all,” elaborates Sreehari.

Although the flyover has been useful, it lacks planning which makes it obsolete before it should have been. Of all the four projects, the Indiranagar flyover stands out with both the public and experts rating it above average. The only thing missing there, they point out, is adequate sign boards leading one to the right road.

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