Clutter in the suburbs

Clutter in the suburbs

With the transformation of Whitefield from a sleepy suburb to an IT hub, the demand for real estate in the neighbourhood is at an all-time high. This is not just for individual houses or bungalows in gated colonies, the main form of residential construction in the area till a few years back, but in terms of single and double-room apartments and paying guest accommodation as well.

As more office complexes spring up in the vicinity, professionals are looking for moderately-priced housing in the area. Not surprisingly, landowners have cottoned on to that fact and are working fast to convert their real estate into residential facilities.

But while paying guest accommodation and apartment complexes are springing up a dime a dozen in Kundanahalli, Thubarahalli and Munnekolala, several critical factors aren’t being taken into consideration. For instance, apart from a few well-maintained arterial roads, most of Whitefield is connected by one-lane streets.  These don’t have the capability to accommodate the number of vehicles which are now being used in the area and offer residents little or no room for parking space. Besides this, the water supply to the region is patchy at best. “The problem,” explains Nithyakanth, who works in Whitefield, “is that most professionals in the area want accommodation that’s close to their workplace and are willing to pay a premium for even small spaces. This isn’t surprising, given the traffic congestion in the City — commuting to Whitefield isn’t easy. But although landowners are taking advantage of this, the infrastructure in Whitefield simply can’t support this rate of construction.”
He agrees that staying in one of the smaller colonies of the suburb is anything but pleasant. “Many new employees of the IT companies in the area are willing to compromise on aspects like water supply and infrastructure because for them, the first priority is to avoid travel time. The repercussions are already beginning to show: during peak hours, there are unimaginable traffic jams on streets that connect the ITPL to certain large residential areas. There is definitely a gap between the growth of infrastructure and construction, and this is something that has to be looked into by those who sanction upcoming projects,” says Nithyakanth.

In fact, this is the BBMP’s responsibility. The body is required to sanction any project before construction can begin. “We look at the width of the construction, the side area and the zone in which it is situated — whether residential, commercial, industrial and so on and so forth,” says Chowdegowda, the additional director of town planning with the BBMP. “In terms of water supply, we ask the owner to send an NOC to the BWSSB. We do consider the roads in the area — construction is only allowed on existing, functional roads and the allowed width of the proposed figure is proportional to the width of the road it is being constructed on,” he adds.

However, he concedes that some of the upcoming structures are unsanctioned. “Many builders construct buildings illegally. They know how to avoid notice and construct in secret. The BBMP has branches across the City with local engineers who take the necessary action against such unauthorised buildings. But we sometimes neglect to notice them because of lack of staff. We are aware of the situation in Whitefield — areas where there is IT development have the potential to develop such problems — but it isn’t possible to keep a check on micro-level development activities,” he explains.

“The chief problem, I think, are the PGs,” says Anukriti, who works in ITPL and lives a couple of kilometres from her office. “There’s very little regulation on them. So, some PG owners are constructing additional storeys to their premises — sometimes as many as five or six. There’s no dearth of people looking for such accommodation, so this kind of expansion only translates to increased income for them.”

For residents of the area, unchecked construction poses several problems. “Firstly, it isn’t pleasant to live next to a construction site,” says Pratibha, a resident of Kundanahalli.

“Apart from trivial inconveniences, there’s also a safety concern since there isn’t a watertight system in place to keep a check on the labour force. Besides, it worries me to think what the situation will be in a few years — will we have enough water? Will the traffic situation become unbearable? It might make a difference if the authorities ensured that development is spaced out over a larger area. But as it is, the situation is alarming.”

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