Seminar on Smart Urban Planning for 21st Century

26 Jan, 2018, 09:22 AM

The seminar on Smart Urban Planning for 21st Century- Challenges and Choices with a focus on Bengaluru’s Draft Revised Plan-2031, organised by Smart India Cities Foundation and the Public Affairs Centre was held on 14th December 2017 at the Le’ Meridian Hotel. The seminar hosted a number of distinguished guests- Mr. K.J George, Minister for Bengaluru Development and Town Planning, Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, Mr.  M .R. Jaishankar, CMD, Brigade Group, Dr. Aromar Revi, Director of IIHS, Dr. A Ravindra, Former Chief Secretary Karnataka, Chairman SCIF & Director Governing Council, PAC, to name a few. Through the course of the seminar, the Draft Revised Master Plan was discussed in great detail; focusing on different aspects considered when compiling the draft of the Master Plan, along with a comprehensive session commenting and critiquing it. The seminar explored various facets and overarching themes which come to play when discussing development. Dr. A. Ravindra posed a few questions on how does one meet the challenges of growing mega city, the problem of employment and whose interests should Urban Planning serve. He urged the Central Government to consider local organizations as consultants for urban planning and development rather than have it dominated by foreign bodies.

From left to right- Mr M.R Jaishankar, Mr. Durga Shankar Mishra, Mr. K.J George,
Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri,
Dr. A. Ravindra and Dr. Aromar Ravi

Dr. Aromar Revi delivered a profound presentation discussing sustainability and sustainable urbanization. He outlined the goals of the core development agenda, the framework of the universal agenda and spoke about sustainable infrastructure, stressing the importance of making cities safe and sustainable. Calling the Master Plan a 20th century document, there is a whole range of new challenges  this plan would not meet. Highlighting the importance of data to track progress and move forward, he discussed the various strengths and vulnerabilities of the city of Bengaluru and how it is an expensive process to develop a landlocked city with no water.

Mr. K J George outlined the various budgeting allocations for different projects that would be undertaken. The most important challenge, according to Mr. K J George is providing mobility to the citizens of Bangalore and of last mile connectivity. Addressing water issues, he spoke about the measures the Government of Karnataka is considering to ease the problem. He welcomed criticism and said that the valuable suggestions would be considered before making a final decision on the Master Plan.

Talking about how the Master Plan laid an exaggerated emphasis on land use in telling rather than in applied context, Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri said that these plans paid little attention to trunk infrastructure, environmental conservation and financing mechanisms. On the topic of transport, he said that the number of motor cars is not an indication of economic growth but of a downward spiral and expressed that the more developed a country, the greater the emphasis on non-motorized transport and walking. He advised that there is a need for integrated planning; a system of intelligent actions which will bring about a lasting improvement in the economic, physical, social, and environmental conditions of a city.

Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri interacting with Senior Delegates of CREDAI

Mr. Nikhil Sham Deshpande, DHV, gave a thorough presentation of Draft Revised Master Plan 2031, whose broad structure has 6 volumes. The vision being- a livable and well governed Bengaluru premised on efficient mobility and urban ecology. He covered the Base Map and existing land use map 2015 at length, reviewing the revised Master Plan 2015. He discussed the guiding principles- mobility, eco-sustainability, streamlined governance, inclusive growth. The aim and strategies were comprehensive streamlined mobility, protection and conservation of lakes tanks and streams, decrease in air and noise pollution, access to large green spaces, provision of safe drinking water. Proposed land use, zoning regulations, plan implementation and enforcement were other aspects that he spoke about.

The critiques and comments session was led by Dr. Aromar Ravi with Ms. Lakshmi Venkatachalam, IAS (Retd) Former Commissioner BDA, Mr. RaviChander, CMD, Feedback Consulting, Mr. Naresh Narasinhan, Architect, Mr.  M. R Jaishankar, CMD, Brigade Group on the panel. Ms. Lakshmi Venkatachalam expressed how citizen participation is changing the landscape of the city and how it is a positive sign. She mentioned how the planning process needs to be accompanied with a robust framework where one can evaluate the impact of what is being done, get feedback and use it for refining goals and objectives. Mr. Naresh Narasinhan mentioned how the current provisional Master Plan has numerous cartographic errors and that Bengaluru shouldn’t be encouraged to develop even more, as the city has reached maximum capacity. What he does suggest is to develop the periphery, linking satellite towns together. Mr. Jaishankar suggested the same and said that the Master Plan is badly thought out. Mr. Narasinhan believes that there is a need to start investing in new technology and encouraging innovation and invention instead of adhering to old systems. Mr. RaviChander found the master plan underwhelming and suggested the calibration of efforts to get the outcomes wanted. One of the biggest challenges that the Master Plan could have addressed according to them was how to manage the land market and that it was not being leveraged to deliver the public goods or outcomes wanted.

Mr. K. J George explaining about the efforts undertaken by Government of Karnataka

What followed was a panel discussion on the topics of land use & transportation, water & waste management and governance issues.  What emerged from the discussion with respect to land use and transportation was the thought of having an all encompassing body to govern the rest, instead of separate entities for each mode of transport. Public transport was a major topic of the conversation, focusing on how to make it conducive for people to use public transport. With water and waste management, the panel directed the talk to whether the issue of government departments not communicating with each other is a structural or attitude issue.  The panel also brought forth the matter of implementation of water conservation and waste management and how to make  everyone practice it. In the governance issues session they discussed the need to break down the idea of governance, different models that could be implemented in the Indian context and the need for institutional and legal reforms.

The seminar proved to be a huge success with the attendance of many eminent people to take part in the discussion of the Master Plan which provided valuable insight and feedback for improvement.