Week 3 Of ESG Imaginaries To Make Cities Work: Mobility & Infrastructure

Update: Report is accessible here and the video recording here.

Date & Time: Jul 21 2022, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Mobility and Infrastructure

Cities are about ease of mobility.  The idea works when everyone has access to means of mobility. However, Bangalore is representative of the malaise arrogating power to those who have the means to afford private vehicles, particularly cars.  The motorcar designs the city in more ways than one comprehends, and the result is that most urban infrastructure – be it the elevated corridors, Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor, road widening, expressways to the airport, steel flyover – are all representative of elite driven urbanisms. Resultantly, the State has abrogated its duty to represent all sections of society and typically rushes to please the elite in matters of their mobility. The resultant cost of such infrastructure development is borne by all and the least contribution is from the elite who caused this massive public expenditure, which should rightfully have been invested in social welfare, education, health for all, environmental protection, etc.

Such methods of the elite imagining the city has become endemic to Bangalore’s planning and development and resulted in structural collapse in organic evolution of the city.  An urb that was a pleasure to walk and cycle in, has now no place for such mobilities.  Instead, the sprawl, an actualisation of policies that financialised land, resulting in elite capture of spaces core to the city or with infrastructure provisioning, has contributed to marginalisation of a majority of the working classes and the poor, and the lower middle classes.  

The absolute lack of investment in public transport that is accessible to all has turned survival in the city – for which one needs to be mobile – a tortuous process. The building of the Metro further privileges those with resources to buy into commercial and residential spaces created along the corridor, to ensure it has ridership, whereas those who need an affordable and effective means of public transport, find the system unaffordable. As a consequence, the Metro which was supposed to relieve the metropolis of traffic congestion – with its attendant loss of mobility, increase in air and noise pollution, loss of economic potential, loss of livelihoods, loss of functional street space, and also loss of public revenue, etc. – is now being expanded to cater to those travelling to the airport at enormous public cost which will be borned by displaced farming communities and the hapless commuter who is forced to take to the two wheeler. The public bus system, which carries ten times the commuter load that the metro does, finds no financial support from the State, whatsoever.   

In attending to such complex challenges of the metropolis, ESG has worked with street communities to reclaim streets as public commons, to protect street vendor rights, to promote pedestrian and cycling rights, to secure urban greenery – especially tree lines and heritage spaces, all to promote the idea of a  city that would ensure inclusivity is central to such public spaces and infrastructure. The argument has been and continues to be that there must be deep democratisation of decision making relating to mobility and infrastructure development so that the promise of Article 39 B – that ownership and employment of material resources best serve the  common good – is actually an argument for  protecting commons, ensuring good health, promoting environmentally viable and equitable livelihoods, and ensuring the city is a construct that is socially responsible, economically viable and ecologically wise.  

These are indicative examples of ESG’s interventions to make cities inclusive and sustainable.

Moderators

Leo F. Saldanha, ESG

Bhargavi S. Rao, ESG

Speakers

Paul Barter, Consultant, researcher, Trainer, and Writer

Geetam Tiwari, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

Mohan Rao, Retd. Professor, centre for Social Medicine and community Health, JNU

Anjum Pervez, MD, BMRCL

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