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A total breakdown of urban planning - A microscopic look at the lowest level

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When we look at Bangalore and see it's overburdened infrastructure falling apart (be it water, roads, power, footpath etc.) , one cannot help but think how we got to this point in the first place, since recognising the problem and it's causes is one of the first steps in effectively proposing and designing a solution to remedy the problem. The "how we got to this stage" question has always been nagging me; I have thought a lot about it leading me to analyze and compare/contrast it with cities outside India that I have visited.  One of the answers is of course the lack of planning and proper execution of infrastructure projects but I feel the actual answer lies in the total failure of urban planning and enforecement of building codes and bye laws.

The reason I dared to make the statement of the answer lying in the total failure of urban planning is based on a simple observation; as a kid I used to visit houses of friends and relatives during the late 70s and for much of the 80s, many these houses were good independent houses (let's say approximately 15 or 20 that I can recollect) in Bangalore (Jayanagar, Rajaji Nagar, Mallewaram etc) and in Mysore. Now, fast forward the clock to 2009 (some 30 years hence)...almost all these 15 or 20 houses are gone except for 2 in mysore and in their place, multi storeyed apartments have come up. Now, the interesting thing to be noted is that the supporting infrastructure like roads, water, sewage, power (distribution lines, transformers etc.) have never really been upgraded or changed to meet the icreased pressure for the increased demands. I have seen the same house demolition and conversion to apartment complex madness play out in Chennai also with the same results. This seemingly simple/harmless pehomenon at an inividual plot/site level when played out at a larger level accross the city in an uncontrolled manner no wonder leads to the rising population levels and crumbling infrastructure.

I wonder what fellow praja members have to say about my observations that I put forward so far. Am I hurriedly jumping to conclusions? What are your thoughts on the above phenomenon being identified as one of the chief culprits (top 2 or 3 reasons) for the infrastructure mess and a city out of control.

I have tried googling but have not been able to trace specific building bye-laws that explictly legalize or disallow demolition and conversion of independent homes to aparment complexes. Could anybody from praja throw more light on this as to how such indiscriminate construction has happened and what the actual bye-laws are?   


s_yajaman's picture

Corruption as well

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Lots of example of terrible planning.  a. ITPL - When you let millions of square feet of office space come up it means that lots of people are going to work there.  Which means people need to commute there.  Yet look at the road leading to ITPL.  Would it have been too much to leave an extra 30 feet on either side?  Or provide a proper bus terminus?  or think of leaving a corridor for a MRT? 

b. E-City - same story. 

c. JP Nagar - no proper access roads (there is BG Road, Kanakapura Road and 24th Main taking all the traffic) unlike Jayanagar.  JP Nagar 7th Phase - they have allowed 3000-4000 apartments to come up without thinking of access roads.

d. BDA and its profit maximization mean that every square meter of land needs to be sold as a site or else it is a waste.  So you have 20x30 sites all over the place.  No space for playgrounds or any other civic amenities.

Apart from bad planning and even worse execution, there is the all pervading corruption.  So even the few guidelines and laws are not enforced.  Basements are allowed to become shops, offsets are not enforced because money is paid. 

Root cause is it has become nobody's city.  I would not be surprised if  50% of its current residents have not been born here or grown up here.   Exceptions apart this means that Bangalore is a way station in life and hence they could not care less if this city went down the pipes.  Politicians see the city as a cash cow and not something to be taken care of.  The IT companies want cheap land and a smooth commute for their employees - all else be damned.   Real estate is unregulated except for the height of the building.  Net result is what we see - an ugly, badly planned monstro"city". 

Sorry for the rant. 



Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

blrsri's picture

pace of growth..

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 was hearing a person on radio today who mentioned that rapid pace of growth has brought in people who have started living in blr now do not have a sense of belonging..places like praja are for the few who have and want to do something for this place..the rest are just there!

China is planning to build a "little India" in years to come in order to become a major service outsourcing center ..look at their lines of what Srivathsa says above!

..with the boom disappearing as a prefix to this town..we will get a new say 'ghost'!

Let them do bhajane then!

Btw on a serious note we need more laws arresting the 30X40 apartment mania..with no planning for resources..maybe we should talk to Mr Meena about it!


blrpraj's picture

@s_yajaman - Nobody's city?

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"Root cause is it has become nobody's city.  I would not be surprised if  50% of its current residents have not been born here or grown up here.   Exceptions apart this means that Bangalore is a way station in life and hence they could not care less if this city went down the pipes."


I beg to differ with you on this. If the nobody's city syndrome was applicable to much of the western cities and their suburbs we should be seeing an exact replica of Indian cities there; in fact we should be seeing a replica that is far worse...especially in the US, UK and Canada that see immigrants pretty much from all over the world. We need to step back and ask ourselves the question as to how come a Bangalorean (or any other Indian for that matter)  goes to a city in one of the above countries, buys a house but unable to demolish it and convert it to a high rise multi unit apartment no matter how greedy he or she is. The answer lies in the zero tolerance approach to enforcement of the local building codes and bye-laws. In most of the western cities that I am referring to it is difficult if not impossible to find a contractor who will even touch a nail in your building (let alone do major demolition or construction) without the appropriate permits, becaus if he does unapproved work it is guaranteed that he will be in a soup and his license suspended. Moreover if I still go ahead and bribe my way through and build an unapproved construction then I am guaranteed to go to prison followed by complete demolition of the structure. All this in a city that myself and countless of other people immigrated to and really don't consider as "my city". The only magic here is that everybody - owner, contractor, building inspector, law enforcer are all doing their job properly and everybody in the chain is accountable and know that there are severe consequences for their improper actions.

Contrast that with our Bangalore. The many houses of friends and relatives that I referred to in my initial post belong to pakka kannadigas who were born and have been brought up very much in Bangalore and mysore who (including me) very well know that they can get away with anything...basically sell a plot to the builder at an exorbitant rate (basically greed for money, the worst part is that the system enables this greed by doing nothing) and in return get 1 or 2 flats free among the flats that are built on a plot meant for an individual home. Can the same thing happen in a western city if the same owner, builder and building inpsector combination are transported to one of the western cities? I definitely don't think so; perhaps only in the rarest of instances. 

Even if 10% of the building byelaws found in were enforced in bangalore, Bangalore would have been a far better place. What I could not figure out though is what section of that document legalizes the contruction of a multiple unit apartment complex on a plot/site that had an independent single family home on it. Could someone from praja throw some light on this and help out? All I am trying to determine is if the apartment construction madness in place of independent homes is legal or not. If it is infact legal then we seriously need to examine the basis on which those laws have been passed.

blrsri's picture

zero tolerance..

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is the perfect word that you have used blrpraj...its zero..not 5% or 10%..!

No violations is what needs to be practiced..!

I was in Girinagar few years ago and there was a disputed land then where the sites were being bought and sold without paperwork and one of the touts offered me such a site..when I asked about construction..he said it needs to be done in the night..cos there was a fear that bda guys will come and demolish if done in the day!!

Mr Vidyashankar was the BDA commissioner then and everyone feared him..unfortunately he was given a very short tenure..we need more such people!

anton's picture

Ground water pollution

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Extra capacities should have been installed for infrastructure and services, but knee jerk reaction has led to woeful inadequacy even before commissioning of the service. Look at the Inner Ring Road!

And some of the problems can't even be fixed later. Recent news articles speak about the horrendous ground water pollution being perpetrated. Are we going to see disaster of the scale of the arsenic in watertable problem of Bengal (both West Bengal and Bangla Desh) soon?


TOI printed an article demanding BWSSB treat the water before allowing it into storm water drains and lakes.

blrpraj's picture

interesting article

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I stumbled accross an interesting article on the web - 

Nitinjhanwar's picture

Catching the tail instead of the head.

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 My opinion is that one cannot stop and should not stop

the friendly growth because it is not there in outdated


Its like following the Registration act of 1950's for societies,trusts and NGOs,voluntering organisations blindly.

An example is that Thailand has made disputes to be sorted out by legal mechanism their construction contracts. The negative point is that the BID cost will be high but the collusion may be less. Arbitration is for transparency and quick disposal not alledged collusion.

Similarly u cannot stop progress because of outdated methdology of urban planning and bylaws.

Why not plan after one builds and evolve on it?

Nitin Jhanwar



blrpraj's picture

re: Catching the tail instead of the head.

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Valid point, but please let me point out that we cannot stop following laws simply because they are outdated. Laws will always become outdated as society evolves and that is the reason why laws are not 100% enforced down to the written letter even in developed countries. Laws that matter definitely need to be enforced and if outdated then the govt needs to take those laws up and revamp them in an expeditious manner after due process provided that the necessary techincal & other feasibility studies are done by concerned experts. Otherwise, the end result will be chaotic cities ("dumps") like Bangalore, Mumbai etc. with absolutely disorganized growth ..following which none of us should be complaining about bad infrastructure then. comment guidelines

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