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Bangalore Road Widening and Other Urban Transport Projects Impacted Communities Unite

BATPIC Network launched with the objective of pursuing urban transport projects that are socially just, economically viable, environmentally friendly and long lasting solutions

Press Release : Bangalore : 17 July 2012

 

Joint Statement 

 

Summary:  

 

·        

Over the past decade, Bangalore has seen an unsustainable rise in the use of personal modes of travel causing massive traffic jams and wastage of time, fuel and people's resources.

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Due to poor planning and an increasingly insensitive administration, the solutions to these problems tend to serve the needs of the elite, but leave the larger masses unattended.

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Bangalore as a city will fail to function efficiently if it does not think intelligently to resolve the traffic and transport problem. Overall, private vehicle use hurts families as the cost of owning and using a car or motorbike is ever increasing. Besides, reliance on private modes of travel increases congestion, while also wasting productive time, fossil fuel, causing environmental pollution and thus adversely affecting public health. It should thus be every body's concern to find ways to come out of the current situation.

·        

Keeping all these concerns in view, and the fact that despite many efforts over the years State and City Governments are not listening to peoples' genuine concerns and propositions, it has now become essential for various communities directly and indirectly impacted by such decisions to come together and form a city wide alliance.  

·        

Bangalore Transportation Projects Impacted Communities Network (BATPIC Network)  will work collectively and collaboratively to secure long lasting and inclusive solutions to urban transportation problems.

 

Background: 

 

The 21st century heralds an unprecedented period in human history when a majority of the population became urban. 

In recent decades, Bangalore has evolved as one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the world.  From a population of 26 lakhs in 1971 spread over 250 sq. kms, the city now supports over 80 lakhs people working, studying and living in about 1,000 sq. kms.   In less than a decade, this population will grow to 1 crore, and there are serious questions arising if there are enough resources to support such a vast population comfortably.  Water has become scarce and expensive, which coupled with the high cost of living, especially for housing and travel, has made life more and more difficult for a majority of the population. Due to poor planning and an increasingly insensitive administration, decisions are taken which tend to serve the needs of the elite, but leave the larger masses unattended.

 

Over the past decade, the city has seen an unsustainable rise in the use of personal modes of travel causing massive traffic jams.  This has resulted in wastage of time, fuel and people's resources, and also increased health and environmental problems. This was not unexpected, and various experts had warned of this very possibility from the mid 1970s.  Yet, an undemocratic and centralised process of planning evolved under the Bangalore Development Authority, which was more interested in real estate development than in ensuring planned development of city in a manner that would work for all.  Creation of adequate infrastructure to support public transportation was grossly neglected, even when repeatedly demanded, and the result today is that the city is unsustainably sprawling in all directions.   Extending public transport services to the peri-urban areas is becoming economically unviable, and communities forced to live here suffer increasing travel costs eating into their incomes.  In older neighbourhoods and for communities living within the city, the increased traffic congestion has resulted in a serious deterioration in the quality of life. 

 

With a 1:3 private vehicle:population ratio, Bangalore as a city will fail to function efficiently if it does not think intelligently to immediately resolve its traffic and transport problems.  Overall, private vehicle use hurts most families as the cost of owning and using a car or motorbike is increasing and becoming unaffordable, especially given the ever-rising fuel costs.  Besides, reliance on private modes of travel increases congestion,  wastes productive time and fossil fuel, causes environmental pollution and adversely affects public health.  Each and every one of us ought to be concerned with finding ways leading out of the dire current situation.

 

 

 

Government lax in promoting progressive and democratic solutions:

 

In this context, it is highly disappointing that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and the Urban Development Department of the Karnataka Government - all agencies that are required to offer progressive and inclusive solutions that work for all - are peddling projects that are disastrous for the city and its peoples.  These agencies have either actively promoted or tolerated projects that are extremely wasteful of scarce monetary and land resources, projects that learned experiences from around the world have proven to be insufficient and ill-conceived in addressing the multi-dimensional problems of traffic congestion. 

 

Current efforts of these agencies that are officially touted as  solutions to the problem of traffic congestion include untramelled road widening and proliferation of signal free corridors, expansion of the metro network, creation of a super-expensive high speed rail link to the airport, and also, a periodically recurring exploration of monorail.  When formulating any or all these decisions, the wide public has been totally kept in the dark, and it is safe to assume that these projects are being promoted in wholly undemocratic and unaccountable ways.  

 

Road widening is not a solution to relieve traffic congestion:

 

The proposal to widen roads, for instance, was initially promoted by  identifying 91 inner-city roads in 2004.  This list has since grown to 216.  Now a bunch of signal free corridors have been added as well.  Together,  these projects involve a massive displacement of communities and the careless refashioning of core city areas.  In addition, the proposed projects will undoubtedly affect thousands of businesses, homes, street vending spaces, trees and critical pedestrian and cycling zones in an adverse and illegal manner. 

 

It is more than certain that widening roads is a short term solution. These very roads will have to be widened again in a few years unless we are able and willing to think differently and search creatively for more durable and inclusive solutions.  Such solutions must be focussed on bringing down the need for private vehicle use, on promoting bicycling, walking and other non-motorized transport, and on augmenting the efficiency and attractiveness of public transport options.  It is indeed shocking that our living spaces, which characterise the very soul and economic basis of the city, are now sought to be sacrificed to provide for increased mobility for the ceaselessly increasing private vehicle users. From the perspective of a representative democracy, one must not lose sight of the fact that private vehicle users  nonetheless constitute a minority of the travelling publics (40 lakhs commuters in 5000 buses and 1 lakh autos occupy merely 2% of Bangalore city's road space.  In contrast, 35 lakhs using private motor vehicles monopolise 90% of the city's road space.)

 

Urban Transport Projects are proposed and implemented in violation of law and policy

 

There has been absolutely no opportunity for participation (both for the directly and indirectly affected publics) in the formulation of decisions promoting these mega projects.  This dismal democratic deficit exists despite the fact that applicable statutes, such as the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, the Bangalore Development Authority Act, the Constitutional 74th Amendment (Nagarpalika) Act, the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, the Karnataka Parks and Open Spaces Act, and several more, mandate that agencies must consult people in decisions that affect their lives, livelihoods and their futures. 

 

The Karnataka High Court has repeatedly held the importance of complying with the letter and spirit of these laws (Eg. Directions in ESG's PIL on Road Widening, WP No. 7107/2008).  Courts have also threatened contempt action against officials violating provisions of law that mandate public involvement in decision making (Eg. ESG's PIL on Bangalore Metro, WP No. 13241/2009).  Further, Courts have also held such massive projects must be promoted only after considering comprehensively their environmental and social impacts (Eg. PIL challenging GKVK Link road, WP No. 28040/2009).  Yet, various civic and infrastructure agencies of the local and state governments continue to promote projects in flagrant disregard for such binding legal directives. 

 

The decision making processes resulting in these projects have also comprehensively ignored the need to follow the principles articulated by various progressive national policies such as the National Urban Transport Policy, the National Street Vendors Policy, etc.  In many a case, it appears that even elected representatives of the civic body have been kept out of the process of formulating decisions on these mega-projects.

 

Project affected communities have been denied their fundamental right to compensation, as the State and City Governments have promoted a Transfer of Development Rights scheme while claiming that such a scheme is indeed compensatory.  The fact remains that such Transfer of Development Rights scheme are almost always never truly compensatory.  Besides the unpopularity of this scheme, it is also a fact that the first person who accepted this voluntary scheme has not yet received his TDR certificate, and that too since 2006!  Further, in its desperation to push ahead with road widening and other such projects to relieve traffic congestion, the Government is forcing beleaguered and weary citizens to accept this scheme as though it were mandatory.  This is in blatant disregard of the Due Process Rights and the Right to Life and Livelihoods enshrined in the Constitution of India.

 

It is time such undemocratic, unviable, socially unjust, and environmenally unsustainable projects were put to an end. It is time that people are genuinely involved in formulating decisions to evolve public transport and urban infrastructure projects that will indeed genuninely benefit all.  This is eminently possible in a city that is blessed with good weather and a cycling and pedestrian friendly climate all year round

 

Progressive and long lasting solutions ignored:

 

People across the city have come up with intelligent solutions to resolve the problem of traffic congestion through a variety of initiatives - not just in the short term, but permanently. These include creating streets that are safe public zones, fully accessible, cycling and pedestrian friendly, with preference for public transport and emergency vehicles, that uphold Rights to Livelihoods of street vendors, and conserve trees and open spaces.  These solutions involve massive reduction of investment in urban transport infrastructure projects, with emphasis on making roads accessible to all and public transport affordable by all and attractive to all.  All these ideas and proposals conforms with laws and policies as  have progressively evolved in India's constitutional milieu; these ideas and proposals have the backing of traffic and transport experts and also resonate with a strenghtening global consciousness that cities succeed when they promote public transport and fail when private modes of travel are given preference.

 

Repeated Governments have been talking about making Bangalore world class. That would mean they should work with the people in promoting solutions  that severely restrict private vehicle use while providing a variety of public transport options, both within the central parts of the city and also the outskirts.  In addition, inter-city travel modes could shift to low carbon rail based alternatives, rather than investing wastefully and heavily on expressways and elevated corridors that only benefit a tiny section of the population.  Such measures will save the country valuable foreign exchange and would drastically reduce the need for consumption of petrol and diesel, while also helping step up India's efforts to tackle climate change.

 

Instead of supporting such progressive ideas, the Government is pursuing highly wasteful investment in such mega projects that will further induce reliance on private travel modes.  A good case in point is that the Metro, promoted as a public transport mode, is so expensive to build, that its pricing will make it unaffordable to travel in for a majority of the population. Far more viable methods of public transport, such as investing in different types of buses adapting to neighbourhood needs, are completely ignored.  It appears that greater the investment in urban transport infrastructure, the more interested political and administrative setups are in such projects, even when it is proven that they may not necessarily serve in resolving the problem at hand.

 

BATPIC Network launched to resist illegal urban transport projects and promote progressive and inclusive solutions:

 

Keeping all these concerns in view, and in light of the fact that peoples' genuine concerns and propositions are not being responded to despite many concerted efforts over the years to engage with State and City Governments, it has now become essential for various communities directly and indirectly impacted by such decisions to come together and form a city wide alliance. 

 

It is the intent of  Bangalore Transportation Projects Impacted Communities Network (BATPIC)  to work collectively and collaboratively to secure the following objectives:

 

1.      

Promote only such road improvement and urban transport projects that fully secure the rights of all communities, minimise the displacement of communities and the destruction of greenery, and provide affordable and accessible mobility for all.

2.      

Promote walking, cycling and economically viable and appropriate public transport modes to ensure that mobility for all is cost effective and climate friendly.

3.      

Work as a network of solidarity amongst impacted communities to resist illegal displacement and unsustainable and wrong projects.

 

Endorsed by:

 

Bangalore South Residents Welfare Association, Ring Road, Bangalore

 

Citizens Support Group, Rajkumar Road, Rajajinagar

 

Janpahal

 

Citizens Action Forum


Save Trees, Save Malleshwaram

 

We care for Malleshwaram

 

Koramangala Initiative

 

Alternative Law Forum

 

Hasiru Usiru

 

Environment Support Group

 

 

Address for contact:

Environment Support Group

1572, 36th Cross, Ring Road

Banashankari II Stage

Bangalore 560070

Tel.: 91-80-26713559~61

Voice/Fax: 91-80-26713316

Web: www.esgindia.org

Email: esg@esgindia.org