An Interactive Session was organized on the topic “Urban Governance and Bangalore” at Bangalore International Centre on 19th February, 2007 at 6 PM. Dr. A Ravindra, Former Chief Secretary to Government of Karnataka and currently the Vice Chairman, Karnataka Planning Board, chaired and moderated the Session. Shri M K Shankaralinge Gowda, Commissioner, of Bangalore Development Authority and Sri Anand K Jalakam, Water Management Specialist, USAID, participated in the discussion as panelists. Shri P R Dasgupta, Director of the Centre introduced and welcomed the Chairman and the panelists.
In his opening remarks, Dr A Ravindra observed that the growing interest on urban governance amongst the intelligentsia and the general public is a heartening feature as more informative debates are necessary to meet the challenges of growing cities, like Bangalore. He drew attention to the fact that in spite of several infrastructural deficiencies highlighted by the people and the media, migration to Bangalore has not abated either from other cities within the country, or even outside, or from the rural areas within the country. Investments have been going up, and so are the demands for locations within Bangalore. Bangalore itself has been growing and with the finalization of the plans for Greater Bangalore, the original area of 224 Sq. Kms is going to expand to 740 Sq. Km. Admittedly this growth process has thrown up several issues which need resolution as the people living in Bangalore deserve much better governance and infrastructural facilities. One has also to accept the fact that this natural process of growth can not be stopped by physically or artificially stopping migration to Bangalore from other areas. Highlighting the areas of urban governance which needed immediate and constant attention, Dr Ravindra stated that there are three major concerns:
He also stressed that greater coordination between several para-statal bodies working in Bangalore, each dealing with some aspect or the other of urban governance, is necessary and felt that more decentralization of power and authority to the Ward Committees within the municipal area would have a better and more beneficial impact on urban governance. In this context, he wondered whether one should go in for direct election of the Mayor by the general electorate and also a longer tenure for the Mayor. In conclusion, he stressed that urban governance can only improve when there is greater and better Public-Private Partnership.
Shri Shankarlinge Gowda highlighted the role of the BDA in his observations on urban governance and its complexities in Bangalore. He drew attention to the fact that urban planning earlier had not visualized the enormous shifts and changes as well as the emergence of new demand patterns in Bangalore within a very short time. Malls, Multiplexes, Flyovers, Metro Rail – all these are new developments catering to new demands. At the same time, demand for drinking water, electricity, educational institutions, financial institutions, newer and better roads, better municipal services etc., have all increased manifold. Demand for housing, particularly for the middle class and lower middle class, as well as for the poor has become one of great priority in the urban governance of Bengaluru. BDA, as the Planning Authority, has prepared a Master Plan for Bruhat Bengaluru upto 2015 and has tried to take a comprehensive look at the urban requirements as these have emerged. The strategies adopted are verticalisation of housing in Bangalore; a system of urban renewal and relocation with increased FAR; provisioning of essential infrastructures like educational institutions, banks, convenience shops catering to every day requirements; Entertainment Centres in every area; and improvements in the existing urban services. Greening Bengaluru through more and more trees and augmenting the availability of ground water through rainwater harvesting are other important planks of the Master Plan.
Shri Anand Jalakam laid emphasis on better municipal services to be made available to the doorsteps of the residents. He rued the fact that while Bengaluru has a huge waste-water treatment plant with a capacity of 650 MLD, hardly 35% of its capacity is utilized. This is mostly because of the negligence of the municipal staff and the callousness of the citizens. He urged greater public-private management to bring in improvements in the municipal services, particularly waste-water treatment and solid-waste management.
In the lively discussion that followed several issues like private participation in transport and distribution of power, a more dynamic role for the BDA and other parastatals working in various areas of urban governance, better traffic management and more pro-active approaches to the housing and other needs of the urban poor were raised. There was unanimity that the manifold tasks could be achieved only through transparent and vigorous Public-Private Partnership.
The meeting ended with a vote of thanks proposed by the Director and seconded by the entire gathering.