Bengaluru: A sprawl of a demographic nightmare

news Monday, April 27, 2015 - 05:30
A BRUHAT ISSUE – II: The Karnataka HC has asked the state government to hold elections to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) within six months. This directive comes in the backdrop of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s ambitious plan to split the existing BBMP into three smaller municipal corporations. We dissect the entire issue at hand in this five-part series.  First story in series- BBMP puzzle: Did Siddaramaiah just get saved from political oblivion? The Karnataka Chief Minister has been insistent that the state capital has grown too big in numbers, and, is therefore unmanageable. It is this reason that Siddaramaiah has been propping up as the official explanation to split up the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). Bengaluru has definitely grown, and is a big mess in itself. The BBMP is currently the largest municipal corporation in the country with an area of 712.54 sq km under it. With a population of 8,443,675 according to the 2011 census, the population density is 11,850 persons per sq km. The overall BBMP area is one and half times the size of Chennai, and four times that of Kolkata. Picture courtesy- Sarangi B The BBMP area has witnessed the highest growth in the country of about 51 per cent over the past decade. This is an increase of about 4.21 per cent CAGR annually, which is twice that of the decadal growth of the country itself. The population of what constitutes the BBMP area has increased from 5.5 million in 2001 to over 9.1 million in 2013. This, of course, includes areas like Yelahanka, Dasarahalli, RR Nagar, Mahadevapura and Bomanahalli which became part of the BBMP area in 2007. The BBMP as we know today was officially formed in January 2007 by merging 100 wards of the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP), along with the city municipal councils  of Rajarajeshwari, Dasarahalli, Bommanahalli, Krishnarajapuram, Mahadevapura, Byatarayanapura and Yelahanka, besides the town municipal council of Kengeri and 110 villages around Bangalore. The total area increased overnight from the 226 sq km under the erstwhile BMP to 712.54 sq km. At a time when cities were contemplating splitting themselves up, the Janata Dal (Secular) government of HD Kumaraswamy had created a monolith. The JD(S) then had a power-sharing arrangement with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Both these parties are today vehemently against a trifurcation of the BBMP. A comparison of numbers is quite telling. The city that has grown as much as Bengaluru is Bangkok (at 45.2 per cent decadal growth), but the Thailand capital is almost twice the size (at 1,569 sq km).  The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has as many as 57 constituencies. Shanghai, on the other hand, has had a decadal growth of 40.1 per cent, but has an area of 6,340 sq km. The Municipality of Shanghai has 16 districts and one county.  Or, compare it with an Indian example. The erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi (which was trifurcated in 2012) was spread over 1,397 sq km and had a population of 11,007,835. Its population density of 7,880 was far lower than that of Bengaluru. The size of the city and population density was the first thing that was highlighted in the first report submitted by the three-member expert committee that was constituted by the state government in September last year to look into the issue of a possible restructuring of the BBMP. The panel noted that of the 10 cities with population of over 9 million, only two cities in the world have a single corporation (‘Dense’ Mumbai with an area of 463 sq km and Bengaluru with an area of 800 sq km). The panel noticed that once a city reaches the 7-8 million population bracket, the number of corporations tends to rise from a solitary one to multiple corporations. London (32) and Johannesburg (7) were exceptions in the sense that they had multiple municipalities even at lower population levels. It then becomes a question of changing the question to fit the answer. The committee remarked, “Bengaluru does have the designated Bengaluru Metropolitan Area (Bangalore Development Authority - BDA of 1219 sq km) and Bengaluru Metropolitan Development Authority (BMRDA of 8000 sq km). In this context it is worthwhile to reflect on Figure 6, which sets out an approximate estimate of the likely population trends within the BBMP area, the BDA area (fast growing Bengaluru Metropolitan Area) and within the Metro region (BMRDA). This chart is a reminder that any exercise to restructure BBMP has to take into account the future growth in the extended region in the decades to come. In this context it is worth mentioning Italy, where there is a move towards Metropolitan governance arrangements that manage multiple cities and town units under its jurisdictions.” The case, therefore, is for defining the area of what constitutes Bengaluru and what may possibly be a Greater Bengaluru. The committee’s preliminary study of global cities with a population over 8 million suggested that they increasingly follow a “multi-municipal governance structure with an umbrella metropolitan government at the regional scale.” London, with a population of 8.2 million, has 32 boroughs and a metropolitan government constituted of a directly elected mayor and assembly council. On the other hand, Tokyo with a population of 15 million is divided into 23 ‘special wards’ that act as mini-cities with a metropolitan government headed by the mayor, who is the chief executive of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Among cities that have split up matters have been Delhi and Dhaka. The former was trifurcated in 2012 and Dhaka bifurcated in 2011. It’s still too early to say whether the splits worked. The main reasons why many cities have gone in for smaller administrative chunks are to “reduce the burden on service providers and improve the citizen experience of civic services through efficient management.”  Bengaluru has many civic agencies, which often work at cross-purposes. The ones who provide services within Bengaluru are not accountable to the BBMP, but to the state government. The BDA, which formulates the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) for the city, is responsible for land use zoning, regulation and planning of land, providing sites, creating urban infrastructure and improving urban environment in the Bangalore Metropolitan Area (incidentally, the BBMP's domain). The BMRDA, on the other hand is responsible for doing the same in the larger Bangalore Metropolitan Area comprising the three districts of Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural and Ramanagaram. Within the Bangalore Metropolitan Area (BMA), there are others who are responsible for local planning: the Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) and the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority (ELCITA). BBMP is also responsible for waste management, urban forestry, public works, education, health and, of course, revenue. Within the BMA, there are other civic agencies that operate: the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) (hived off from the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation in 1997), Bangalore Electric Supply Company Limited (BESCOM), Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB). BESCOM, incidentally, is responsible for power distribution in eight districts of the state. It covers an area of 41,092 sq km with a population of 21 million. None of these agencies are accountable to the people of Bengaluru, and citizens are never sure of who to hold responsible for a grievance. For instance, the BBMP, BDA and the state public works department (PWD) are responsible for different roads in the city, while the BBMP, BDA and Karnataka Slum Clearance Board (KSCB) are responsible for alleviation of living conditions in slums. Planning is another ballgame altogether, and all planning agencies have a mind of their own. The problem with Bengaluru is not so much its growing population, but the civic agencies that are responsible for the city’s planning, maintenance and governance. Trifurcating the BBMP will hardly solve matters unless all the elements of the governance structure are in sync with each other. Subir Ghosh ( is a Bengaluru-based writer and journalist.