November 7, 2005

Surely, Bangalore needs more attention

By Suresh Heblikar

   Acity to sustain itself must have defined economic and business functions based on its physical environment and natural resources. The problems begin when industrial growth and economic activities become varied and complex. It is difficult to plan and build infrastructure on the wayward growth of the cities. Most Indian cities today face these problems. It is imperative to understand that even the nature and type of infrastructure depends on the nature of industrial and related economic functions. And this, in turn, depends on other factors such as the variety and volume of natural resources, geography and topography of the cities.
   The design of the city’s infrastructure is also part of the integrated planning process of the comprehensive development strategy of any city. The planners, therefore, must take into consideration what kind of roads, layouts, water supply schemes, residential and commercial complexes and waste disposal mechanisms and transport systems should be designed and developed depending on the city’s sustainable resources and salient features.
   Urbanisation is a lengthy complex and a deliberate process. Urbanisation took its roots with the modernisation of agriculture. The urban population was involved in producing and supplying specific requirements of the city. The need for planned logistics grew over time. The resources of the city became the base for designing a particular infrastructure that catered to the industrial and economic activities of the cities.
   If you look into the history of industrial civilisation of the West, we learn how systematically the cities were developed. The cities were developed taking into consideration the sustainability factor and the emerging socio-cultural needs of the city’s populations. So there have been steel towns, textile towns, cities that focus on automobiles, ship building, engineering goods, electronics, software, and so on. There have also been cities that exclusively cater to the varied and specialised educational needs. Urban planning and urban management have played an important role in the development of the cities. On the environment front, water, air and soil become important components in designing the infrastructure.
   Unfortunately, Indian cities lack a sectoral mode of planning and suffer from weak and almost non-existent coordinating mechanism. Growth of the cities is not determined by the strength of their resources (both human and physical) but by political decisions and for populism. Development has often been ad-hoc and not based on long-term perspective. This has happened because urbanisation is a new experience for India. Economic growth has been directed mainly at employment creation and poverty alleviation but in the process social and physical environments were neglected. The present ills are due to the lopsided development which was myopic.
Bangalore has a fragile topography which has been badly tampered with. Therefore, the city is losing its capacity to cope with rising pressures. The urban ecosystems which are necessary to sustain development are rampantly destroyed leading to ecological disasters like the one recently witnessed.
What Bangalore urgently needs is not merely infrastructure but more attention to address its civic, economic and environmental problems. Bangalore needs a thorough and detailed sectoral planning, focus on and restriction of economic functions and fillip to growth strategies and development potential in other parts of Karnataka.
(The writer is a leading environmentalist)

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