Revised Master Plan 2041 and its implications for Bengaluru’s future

Much has happened between 2016 and now, exacerbating the mess that the city is
Last Updated : 30 January 2022, 19:49 IST
Last Updated : 30 January 2022, 19:49 IST

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As the year 2021 came to an end, print and social media were buzzing with news about the Bangalore Development Authority calling for the preparation of a revised Master Plan for Bengaluru, this time for the year 2041. Currently, the city is following (largely on paper) the Revised Master Plan 2015 that, as the name suggests, was to steer the growth of the metropolis till 2015. In other words, the RMP 2015 rendered itself redundant six years ago. On the one hand, the immense implications of this redundancy for a rapidly growing city such as Bengaluru are perhaps not beyond common citizens’ imagination.

For a planner like me, the situation is catastrophic, even while acknowledging that the current Master Planning process is a faulty one, to say the least. By extension, the implementation of Master Plans has been poor so far. That the process to make the plan needs reform — starting with the statutory framework of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act — needs no reiteration. On the other, it’s shameful that a ‘modern’ city like Bengaluru — the capital of a progressive and developed state like Karnataka — does not have an up-to-date planning instrument that will guide its growth.

The mess that Bengaluru is today: Much has happened between 2016 and now, exacerbating the mess that the city is. The period witnessed a draft approval to a revised Master Plan for the year 2031. Subsequently, for reasons best known to the government, the approval was withdrawn. Reportedly, the RMP 2031 did not incorporate the philosophy of and the recommendations of a Transit Oriented Development Policy (2019). Recent news reports attribute the withdrawal of the draft approval to the lack of a Comprehensive Mobility Plan. The latter as is being reported will be prepared by the Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (the bill for which is currently under debate).

Even as these conversations gain traction, there is little or no attention to how the Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority will coordinate with the BDA or its Master Plan. In positioning the Master Plan and the Comprehensive Mobility Plan as binaries, the government seems to have wrapped itself in a chicken and egg situation. In effect, the two should be prepared together, feeding off, and into, each other. In a scenario where questions regarding who should prepare the Master Plan for the city continue to remain unanswered, the coordination between the two plans and the responsible agencies gains heightened criticality.

Who plans for Bengaluru? The civil society pitch on the Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Committee as the agency responsible for plan preparation is as faulty as the government’s claim that the BDA should be the planning agency. As per the 74th CAA, 1992, cliched as this may sound, planning is a local government function — urban and rural. The BBMP should prepare a spatial plan embodying socioeconomic development as its goal, through its ward committees.

The Metropolitan Committee’s role is, in the first instance, to provide a framework for such bottom-up planning; and, in the second, to coordinate and collate such efforts across local governments within its jurisdiction to avoid overlaps and gaps, especially in large infrastructure planning and implementation. That the Metropolitan Committee is notified for the BDA jurisdiction — which has only one local body, the Bangalore Municipal Corporation — renders the coordination and collation function moot.

Yet another blunder: The Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act mandates the revision of the plan every 10 years. Accordingly, the RMP 2015 was to be revised for the year 2025. However, at the time that the revision was being contemplated, it was decided that the revision would be extended up to 2031 to coincide with the Structure Plan. This was a progressive move by the government and would lead to a first-ever congruence between the timelines of the two plans, critical to achieving coherence in planning the region and the city.

Regional and Master Plans: Any city — Bengaluru being no exception — is embedded within its region, hence the need to understand the city within the context of the region. Thus, the planning of the region is equally critical, if not more. Bengaluru metropolis is one of the few in the country that has an excellent statutory framework for the preparation of the regional plan for the Bengaluru Metropolitan Region.

The Master Plan for the metropolis is mandated to be prepared within the framework of the regional plan. Thus, ensuring that the Master Plan and regional plan timelines coincide would provide the much-needed space to allow the two plans to speak to each other such that there is coherence in the approach to planning both the city and its region. With the horizon year extended to 2041 — for which there seems to be no rationale — the little progressive thinking around planning Bengaluru and its region has been thrown to the dogs.

Amidst all this mess, large advertisements in various dailies inform citizens about the Rs 6,000 crore that the BBMP has received under the Amrutha Nagarothana Scheme to take up important infrastructure works. The allocation, as approved by the Cabinet, is towards the improvement of roads, lakes, parks, stormwater drains, solid waste management, slum development amongst others.

In other news, the BMRCL has proposed a skywalk to connect the Banashankari metro station with the BMTC terminal to create a pedestrian and a vending zone. While these may sound laudable and perhaps welcome initiatives, in effect, these are yet once again reactions to an officially created mess that the city is today.

(The writer is a practising urban and regional planner and a visiting faculty at the NLSIU, Bengaluru)

Published 30 January 2022, 18:34 IST

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