Citizen-led surveys show poor state of footpaths across Bengaluru

These surveys were released by non-profit organisation Janaagraha to educate residents regarding the BBMP’s Rs 60 lakh allocation to ward committees to be used to fix potholes and footpaths.
Dug up footpath on Bengaluru's Commercial Street
Dug up footpath on Bengaluru's Commercial Street

Out of five wards surveyed in Bengaluru, Varthur is the least pedestrian-friendly area with no footpaths to speak of and Banaswadi is the most conducive to walking, even though many of the pavements are encroached upon. These are just some of the findings from a number of small-scale surveys conducted across the city. Carried out by non-profit organisation Janaagraha, not-for-profit organisation Jana Urban Space Foundation and urban living lab Sensing Local, these surveys have highlighted various issues with regard to accessibility and safety of pavements and the urgent need to address these problems to ensure the well-being of pedestrians in the city.

The details of the surveys were released on Saturday, January 22, during a webinar organised by Janaagraha to educate residents regarding the BBMP’s Rs 60 lakh allocation to ward committees to encourage participatory governance. The money is to be spent equally on filling potholes, maintaining borewells and fixing footpaths in respective wards.

Five wards were surveyed and given a score out of 100, based on broad parameters with regards to footpaths –  accessibility, connectivity, safety and comfort of paved footpaths on both sides of the road. Varthur ward scored 0 out of 100 for the 2.4 km of road/pavements surveyed. The area is divided into two stretches – Balagere main road and Dommasandra main road – and has no pavements for the safe movement of pedestrians. Moreover, the surveyed road segments have no pedestrian crossings, lack adequate lighting and have zero amenities like garbage bins and benches on either side of the road.

In comparison, Banaswadi scored 26/100 for the 9.5 km of roads surveyed in stretches. But even while scoring the highest among the areas surveyed, it still has a long way to go to be pedestrian-friendly. Only 21% of Dodda Banaswadi road, 7th, 8th and 9th main road and the 2nd cross road in Banaswadi have footpaths. And even these have uneven surfaces and some form of encroachments. Notably, none of the footpaths are accessible to people with physical disabilities.

The other three wards surveyed were Gottigere, which received a score of 17/100 for a total of 8.9 km of road surveyed, Sanjay Nagara at 2/100 for the 3.45 km surveyed and RK Nagara scored 10/100 for the 2.69 km surveyed.

These surveys were shared as a model during an online webinar organised on Saturday by Janaagraha to encourage residents of other wards to replicate such exercises to see the status of footbaths in their neighbourhood. During the discussion, it came up that while in many wards the Rs 60 lakh was being drawn and used by the members of the ward in the spirit of participatory governance, in many others the ward nodal officers were not cooperative. Introduced by BBMP Commissioner Gaurav Gupta in the 2021 Karnataka Budget in August, Rs 60 lakh has been earmarked for each ward to be used to better the footpaths and roads and to promote participatory democracy in urban local governance. Although in law since 1992 as part of the 74th Amendment of the Constitution, ward committees were institutionalised only recently with the intervention of the High Court.

Thulasi Maddineni, IAS officer and BBMP Special Commissioner (Finance), who was instrumental in introducing this initiative, had said, “After we received citizen budget inputs through the My City My Budget campaign we wanted to incentivise citizens to participate in their ward affairs by giving them a chance to decide. Citizens are the biggest stakeholders in ward development and maintenance. Citizens need to continuously engage with their urban local bodies to ensure ward development.” However, she could not be reached for a comment on how many wards have seen this participatory democracy in action.  

So far, participatory democracy in urban areas has been restricted to academic discussion and wishful thinking by citizens according to Srinivas Alavilli, Head, Civic Participation, Janaagraha. “However, today we heard from so many citizens how they worked together in their own ward committees and made concrete plans on how to use the Rs 60 lakh funds allocated to them. It is heartening to see active citizens from across India join this discussion. The BBMP is making great strides in institutionalising citizen participation by conducting ward committee meetings and allocating funds to ward committees and I’m confident that this is a great beginning. We urge more citizens to get involved locally and taste the power of community engagement and ownership,” he added.

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