BBMP’s meeting with citizens concerned about the road-widening plans

Brihat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, in a new initiative to involve citizens in the city’s progress and problems, had called for a meeting with concerned citizens today, 24th August, at the Corporation Office Meeting Hall, to discuss their concern regarding the proposed road-widening in the central areas of Bengaluru.

One of the invitations had come to Environmental Support Group, and another to Hasiru Usiru. So several of us met up with various officials this morning.

The meeting was attended by several officials from the BBMP: Mr Shekhar, DCF, Mr Suresh, ACF, Mr Chidanandiha, the Executive Engineer in charge of road-widening, and some officials from the Horticultural Department.

BBMP officials, meeting with concerned citizens today 240807

The meeting was opened with a very positive attitude on the part of the BBMP officials, who said that they too would not be in favour of cutting down trees unnecessarily, and started the dialogue. The official position was that since the traffic in central Bengaluru had become so congested, it had become necessary to select 85 roads, of which 45 roads had been notified on March 2, 2005; and of these, ten roads (including Palace Road, Seshadri Road, Race Course Road,Kasturb Road, Devang Hostel Road, Jayamahal Road, Bellary Road, Hosur Road and Rashtriya Vidyalaya Road, also known as Nanda Road) were on an urgent footing. About 300 trees would have to be cut, they said.

Mr Leo Saldanha of ESG then spoke. He said that in the first place, the citizens were not talking of the necessity of widening of the roads as a foregone conclusion. They wanted to know if the BBMP had considered any other measures, such as regulation of traffic, rather than the widening of roads, which might not solve the problem for more than a few years.

BBMP meeting with concerned citizens today 240807

Mr Suresh replied that those in the room were all middle-officers of the BBMP and were bound to carry out the directives handed down by the policy makers; they did not have the powers to change the policty.

Mr Saldanha agreed to this, but said that as citizens who were now meeting the BBMP, they had to make this point so that the BBMP officials could at least convey it to their superiors.

There was some lively debate, with both parties acknowledging that while the other side had some valid points, they were trying to convey their own point of view. The citizens said that they were not concerned only with the cutting of trees, which was only part of the whole, larger question, which was, how to decongest the city traffic.

Ms Kathyayani Chamaraj then spoke. She had, with the help of her NGO, prepared a detailed manifesto of points that the citizens wanted to raise.

The course of action that BBMP proposed in widering the roads and cutting trees, she said, was in contravention of both the words and spirit of several acts. It went against the Preservation of Trees act, Sec 41 C and D. She asked if there had been any traffic study done before this decision had been reached, and whether the decision to cut rees and widen the roads had been properly publicised.

She then cited the National UrbanTrust Policy and quoted from it, that the vision was “to recognize that people occupy centre stage, and to ensure that all plans be for their benefit and well-being”. Did “people” mean only those with cars or private vehicles? Would building 6-lane roads not increase the vehicular traffic through the centre of the city?

She quoted the NUTP also as asking for ” a more equitable allocation of road space to people rather than vehicles” and to “encourage greater use of public transport and non-motorized modes”. She said that the present plans went against the guidelines of the NUTP.

Mr Saldanha talked about the increasing problems pedestrians and cyclists faced in today’s city. Surely, he said, if even one person lost his life as a result of the new large roads where pedestrians could not even cross the roads without risking their lives, it meant that there was something wrong with the plan? He pointed out that the NUTP was a document from the Central Government, and that the BBMP officials, even more than private citizens, were duty-bound to follow its guidelines and not flout them.

Mr Suresh promised to take up the matter with the Chief Secretary, and requested that the citizens also meet him and make their representations to him. Encouraged by the attitude of the BMP to be willing to listen, the citizens’ group thanked the officials for the meeting, and adjourned. The BBMP will intimate a further date when dialogue can go on, and hopefully, a sensible, pragmatic course of action can be decided upon, which will not, as Kathyayani put it, not “kill the soul of Bengaluru, which resides in the city’s grace and trees”, but preserve the beauty of our city, not just for the next 5 or 10 years…as Mr Saldanha said, we all want, not just decongestion of Bengaluru for the next 10 years, but the decongestion of Bengaluru, period

In this goal, the BBMP and the ciitizens are united, and so hopefully, they will also, soon, be united in their approach to solve the problem.

Here, in conclusion, is a photograph of the centrail courtyard of the BBMP Corporation Office…

Perhaps, the word “garden”, that certainly applies to this space, will apply once again to this city of ours!

7 Comments so far

  1. Rajesh (unregistered) on August 24th, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

    Thanks for the update Deepa, I am sure we need many more such forums to address the grave issues of this Garden city going earstwhile….

  2. Chitra (unregistered) on August 25th, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

    Nice report. I am glad to learn about the collective interaction. Always a good thing. Kudos to BBMP for trying.

  3. tarlesubba (unregistered) on August 25th, 2007 @ 6:51 pm

    excellent deepa.

  4. silkboard (unregistered) on August 26th, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

    Nice update Deepa. One small correction though. NUTP is not UrbanTrust policy. It is National Urban Transport Policy. It talks of people centric policies as opposed to vehicle centric.

    Find NUTP here on Central Urban Dev Ministry site.

  5. silkboard (unregistered) on August 26th, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

    Sorry, that was the draft, I think this is the approved version of NUTP.

    Makes a good read if you have an interest in the subject. If you want a quick browse, I recommend item #34 and 35 (on parking), and the table on last page (annex 1) talking merits and demerits of public transport technologies (Metro, Mono, Bus etc).

    And BTW, phrases like road-widening and fly-overs don’t find a mention in this document :)

  6. Leo Saldanha (unregistered) on August 27th, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

    Thanks very much for capturing the soul of the meeting as well. It is really a very nice report. We will link up to this from our site.

  7. Muralidhar Rao (unregistered) on August 27th, 2007 @ 12:33 pm

    Very correctly as the BBMP lot has pointed out, these are policy issues, and need to be tackled at a higher level. Whatever, unless pressures are brought on through the kind of exercises undertaken by HU, the people at the higher level just refuse to take notice. Hopefully, the sustained campaign by HU has served that limited purpose – pats on the backs, once again.

    Now, for the policy correctives – perhaps CIVIC/ CAG should organise a seminar/ workshop/ panel discussion on the subjects of “Traffic, Transport, their impact on city’s greenery, etc, etc” to come up with the right kind of solutions. And, this exercise should involve all concerned stakeholders and experts.

    For more, read

    Muralidhar Rao

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