A proposed bill puts urban Karnataka's parks and playgrounds in grave danger

The bill can unleash many problems - increased pollution, decreased access to civic amenities and even lasting environmental damage.
A proposed bill puts urban Karnataka's parks and playgrounds in grave danger
A proposed bill puts urban Karnataka's parks and playgrounds in grave danger
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What is the mark of any well-planned city? Not just wide roads and buildings but also well-placed open spaces, says Sridhar Pabbisetti, CEO of Namma Bengaluru Foundation. But these may soon be things of the past if the Karnataka Assembly passes an amendment which seeks to reduce open spaces in residential areas to a minimal 10%.

On Monday, the Legislative assembly adopted the Karnataka Urban Development Authorities (Amendment) Bill, reportedly without discussion, despite protests from the Opposition. Apart from proposing to reduce areas for open spaces like parks from the current 15%, the area allotted for civic amenities will also be reduced from 10% to 5%.

Sridhar says the move is a “blunder” and a “counter-legislation” detrimental to urban spaces. He adds that there is a “disconnect of imagination” between the kind of city that residents want to live in and what the legislators perceive it to be. He says this has possibly led the Assembly to adopt the bill without discussion with stakeholders.

Elan, member of Whitefield Rising group, rues that the existing open spaces are hardly enough and alleges that the amendment is an indication of the government’s alignment with the real estate lobby. “The government has just said they will reduce open spaces without anything to compensate for it,” he adds.

Elan’s concern indicates a lack of planning and deliberation before accepting the bill. Sneha Nandihal, President of Indiranagar 1st stage Resident Welfare Association says that looking at the bill, one gets the impression that no urban planners were consulted.

“When we were growing up, we could play safely on the streets,” says Sneha, “now even our limited playgrounds are in danger. Where are the children going to play now?” she asks.

Dr S Raje Urs, Chairperson of the Federation of HSR Layout Resident Welfare Associations is concerned that the reduction in spaces for civic amenities is going to unleash a barrage of problems. Explaining that spaces for civic amenities are usually allotted to schools, hospitals, local markets and the like, the bill’s mandate will decrease access to these places.

“Children will have to travel further for schools. Commute to places like hospitals and markets will become more cumbersome,” says Dr Raje, adding that this will increase all kinds of pollution, traffic jams and be detrimental to the environment. He adds that more commercial spaces are also going to increase already burgeoning waste management woes.  

Sneha warns that this is going to have a long term effect on the environment too. “This summer was crazy hot what with the depleting green cover. Now with just closed spaces and floor after floor of buildings, it’s only going to get worse,” she says.

Sridhar also argues are urban spaces are more than just land waiting to be taken. “The authorities need to stop seeing these lung spaces as just pieces of land,” he insists. Pointing out the severe short-sightedness the bill embodies, he says, “Had they thought of our cities' future, they would never have given away open spaces in the first places.” Sridhar adds that citizens must mobilize and oppose the amendment. 

The Karnataka Urban Development Authorities Act extends to the whole of Karnataka except Bengaluru Metropolitan Area.

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