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Report on B/P-ToI 'Public Amenities' event

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By public amenities, the following were included: Distance to the closest park; Adequacy; Distance to the closest playground; Adequacy of Playgrounds. The was held at Sophia school, High Grounds, on Sunday, the 5th Dec. The ToI report may be accessed here. My take-aways are noted below:

Parking lots under playgrounds:
Excerpts from ToI report - "How many Bangaloreans know that BBMP is going ahead with parking slots under some playgrounds? None really, since there’s been no public notice on this hotly-debated project, which was once declared “shelved”. But BBMP commissioner Siddaiah defended the project during the TOI Bangalore Patrol meet here on Sunday".

On this, there has already been a discussion on PRAJA, and my comment on BBMP's 'trust deficit' may be accessed here

Privatisation of public toilets:
Excerpts from ToI report - "Despite the success of pay-and-use toilets, the upkeep of public toilets by BBMP is bad. Having observed that a majority of those handed over to NGOs are well-maintained, more NGOs will be roped into the project. This is among our key areas for privatization. We need 100% monitoring." BBMP commissioner Siddaiah said.

While the suggestion is welcome, a more practical solution may lie in handing over the maintenance to a local eatery, for an attractive concession in property tax, with BBMP engaging itself only in regular inspections thereafter - check this

Encroachment by temples:
Intervening in the debate at a certain stage of the debate, when it went on to the subject of temples/ shrines encroaching parks and foot-paths, Mr Ramesh Ramnathan (Janaagraha), assured the two Commissioners that more than 90% of the city population would be behind them if they demolished/ shifted the offending structures, which are essentially business ventures. The audience roared in approval. PRAJA has debated this extensively, like here

Land for public amenities:
Excerpts from ToI report - What we still call a ‘garden city’ is no longer applicable to 80% of it. Despite the city’s rapid expansion from 226 sq km to over 800 sq km, there is still no space for parks and playgrounds. “The crisis is evident. There’s absolutely no land for any public amenity. About 70% of the newly added areas have no proper parks or playgrounds despite 50% of them being vacant lands. As a way out, they are left with no option but to take over government lands for the parks and playgrounds’’ Siddaiah said.

So, what is holding it up? Let the work start on priority.
    
The biggest challenge ahead for BBMP is increasing the playground numbers. “Given a choice between parks and playgrounds, all people we approach want a park. And most of them don’t want clubbing the two spaces,’’ the commissioner explained.

This is indeed sad. With the youth hardly having any say in the affairs of RWA's, the elders have literally usurped all the open spaces for themselves to lay walking/ jogging tracks alongside manicured lawns. So much so, you'll see signages saying "keep off the grass" in most BBMP parks, thereby depriving the children the experience of a closer contact with nature, and the pleasures thereof.

I would ideally like to see all parks and open spaces conveted into play grounds, with jogging tracks confined just to the periphery, with (say) two lines of trees (of all varieties) separating the tracks and the open ground.

Waste management:  
Excerpts from ToI report - Installing bio-methanisation plants to treat wet wastes at markets, an MoU with TVS group for crude oil from plastic wastes and automated segregation machines which would segregate the wet, dry and plastic waste by itself, are among the other initiatives planned by the palike.

Interesting - need to know more

Tree cutting:
Excerpts from ToI report - The meeting on environment and public amenities also witnessed public wrath on BBMP’s tree management across city.

Good to see that the green consciousness amongst the citizens improving.

Measures will be taken to decentralize the system and an engineer in each ward will be made to function as a tree officer to safeguard the trees. The tree falls are also due to BBMP’s road asphalt works which have extended to the roots of roadside trees, that’s also disturbed the infiltration capacity of the roots. We are working on remedial measures across the city,” Siddaiah added.

Will have to see if it's actually implemented.

Letting out sewage into lakes and open spaces by apartmenyt complexes:
Excerpts from ToI report - “Tracking these irregularities, KSPCB had filed a case against an apartment in Kaggadasapura. Unfortunately, we ended up filing a case against theapartment RWA and most of them were housewives who had just signed up as members as the male folk were mostly out on work. However, the builder escaped scot-free. But this experience helped us in bringing in better regularisation modes. We are now formulating a procedure wherein the builders will be made accountable for not setting up STPs,” KSPCB chief environment officer M D N Simha explained.

There's a lot more that the KPSCB has to do if it has to erase the taint as the worst department pronounced by none less than the state High Court - check this

Overall, there's a lot more that the government agencies need to be doing, because, as Bangalore Patrol's by-line very rightly puts it " we believe that a city with first class citizens deserves first class amenities".

PS: Due to travel and other engagements, I could only complete this report only some two weeks after the event, though its validity remains unaffected.

Muralidhar Rao

 

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