September 21, 2005

Paper projects, these

Like the rise of a new constellation, a new equation is gaining momentum — the rise of RWAs (Residents’ Welfare Associations). In the last few months, they have turned on the flashlight on the yawning gap between the tax they cough up and the scarred surfaces they get as roads. ‘Infrastructure’ might have emerged the clarion call of residents for a year now, but ironically, it has been the BCC budget’s mainstay for the past five years. Yet here’s the mammoth task staring in the face — 4,000 km of roads need an immediate facelift, 275 km of drainage system needs to be regraded, 2,500 tonnes of garbage need to be disposed of effectively. S Kushala and Smitha Rao explore the infrastructure mess.

   When the Bangalore City Corporation (BCC) unveiled its ‘Bangalore Infrastructure Plan’, a vision document and action plan for Bangalore’s development in 2000 to be implemented by 2005, it set the ball rolling for the city’s makeover.
   Cut to the present: BCC has spent a little over Rs 1,000 crore in five years towards “projects, infrastructure and engineering works’’ which includes roads, storm water drains, construction of grade separators, markets and complexes.
   But the result is there for all of us to see today — far from being a benchmark for international urban success, the city does not have basic infrastructure. The outcome: frequent agitations by residents, industrialists and IT captains. And what’s more, even the World Bank’s latest study has given a thumbs-down to the city’s infrastructure.
   The BCC’s infrastructure plan had envisaged creation of a distinct “Bangalore identity’’ to attain international standards in public health, sanitation and infrastructure. And the key features were: 27 flyovers and underpasses to be built by June 2004, five ROBs, RUBs to be completed by March 2002, surface, off-street and conservancy parking by December 2000, six multistoried parking complexes by December 2003, 700 bus shelters, bays and terminals by April 2002.
   “Where has all the money gone? We don’t even have decent roads. The city gets flooded even under the slightest downpour when nearly Rs 150 crore is spent just on roads every year. The city, which was progressing at a fast pace, has suddenly come to ground zero,’’ point out urban planners.
   But flip through the budget books which makes tall promises about the projects. These are the projects that appear every year in the budget copies, with enhanced allocations.
   At regular intervals, BCC goes berserk about announcing mega-budget projects — be it the 23 grade separators in 2002-03 budget or last year’s resolution of 54 grade separators. The agenda is already set. But who will implement it? Any answers?

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