Vertical growth part of the solution

Vertical growth part of the solution

High rises

In the mid-80s, the then Karnataka Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde had envisioned a paradigm of vertical, rather than horizontal, growth for Bengaluru to ease the pressure on shrinking space and to protect the green belt on the city’s outskirts. Now, nearly four decades hence, after much of the damage has already been done, the government has finally notified draft rules that facilitate high-rise buildings around the metro rail corridor and the proposed peripheral ring road. Citizens will now be able to purchase at a special cost premium floor area ratio (FAR) which will enable them to undertake construction over and above what is currently permitted. FAR is calculated based on the dimension of the site and the road adjoining it. Currently, premium FAR is being sold only by Mangaluru City Corporation. According to the draft rules, which are applicable to the entire state, 50% of the charges thus collected should be utilised for acquisition of land for roads and the remaining for infrastructure development.

As the population rises while the total habitable area available does not expand, it becomes imperative to envisage vertical development of our cities to meet the ever-growing demand for land. Building upward rather than outward will help contain a large amount of people in a smaller space, reducing the need to encroach upon the green cover bordering the city. Restrictive building laws are being relaxed across the world to ensure optimum land use. The availability of additional construction area could bring down real estate costs and make housing more affordable in Bengaluru. The Transit Oriented Development (TOD) spelt out in the plan will hopefully ease the traffic woes in many parts of the city as concentrated development is envisaged only around the mass rapid transit corridor, which will encourage use of metro rail, reducing the load on roads. The pressure on utility agencies to expand infrastructure, too, will be contained.

If properly implemented, the new FAR guidelines can prove beneficial to the city, so long as it is not misused by the real estate and construction industries to make windfall gains and thereby worsen life in an already crumbling city. The scheme must be strictly confined to areas along the metro lines and the peripheral ring road. At the same time, government must pursue with greater vigour the idea of decongesting Bengaluru by developing towns and cities around it, an idea that hasn’t really taken off so far but one that holds potential to improve both sustainability and quality of life as well as productivity.