Gathering pace

Published : Sep 07, 2007 00:00 IST

A view of Bangalores Metro station and tracks.-COURTESY: BANGALORE METRO RAIL

A view of Bangalores Metro station and tracks.-COURTESY: BANGALORE METRO RAIL

Bangalore is now focussed on working out ways to remove its infrastructure bottlenecks.

BANGALORE, Karnatakas capital city located 980 metres above sea level, is no longer the idyllic pensioners paradise that it was a few decades ago. It has led Indias advance into the information technology age, with the expression to be Bangalored (meaning outsourced) finding a place in the jargon used in connection with the United States economy.

But infrastructure in Indias fastest growing urban agglomeration, the countrys Silicon Valley, has not kept pace with the growth of its population, which is close to 7.5 million and is expected to reach 12.5 million by 2036. This has meant a fall in the quality of life. Traffic snarls, unheard of a couple of decades ago, are an everyday ordeal for road users. The problem is compounded by inefficient, badly planned and lackadaisical traffic policing and poor driving skills. Garbage disposal systems have repeatedly faced hiccups. The storm water drains are filled with debris and silt. The development of residential layouts has been haphazard and the public transport system is unable to wean away people from the use of private vehicle.

However, the main utility stakeholders are now trying to put in place measures that will enhance the quality of life.

Bangalores phenomenal growth of the last 15 years, driven by the rise of the information technology sector, has forced the State government to form a new administrative body for the city. Called the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike, or Greater Bangalore Municipal Body (BBMP), it would extend the urban area of Bangalore currently administered by the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) by integrating areas that were administered by seven city municipal councils, one town municipal council and 111 urbanised villages. While the BMP administered an area of 226 sq km, the BBMPs jurisdiction will be 728 sq km.

The BBMPs budget has also swelled with overall receipts for 2007-08 standing at Rs.3,302 crore, the estimated expenditure being Rs.3,312 crore. Tax revenue is expected to yield Rs.610 crore in 2007-08, against Rs.368 crore in 2006-07.

Acknowledging the gigantic task ahead, BBMP Commissioner Dr. S. Subramanya said that since the Palike was an important stakeholder in the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), it was leveraging the Missions funds for infrastructure projects under the 2006-12 City Development Plan. We have made a substantial allocation in the Budget, to the extent of Rs.1,060 crore under the JNNURM.

According to Subramanya, the biggest stumbling blocks to providing an orderly administration, efficient infrastructure and proper delivery of public service were collusion between employees and a lack of transparency. I admit that my system is a huge contributor for the rot. Transparency is the key. The collusion can be broken by transparency. Huge reforms are needed in urban administration.

Citing traffic problems as a major reason for disruption of life in Bangalore, the Commissioner said that road intersection management was crucial. We are widening 10 arterial roads at a cost of Rs.100 crore, building grade separators and road overbridges [for which Rs.130 crore has been sanctioned], planning an elevated, inner core road in central Bangalore, planning to convert a few arterial roads into six-laned roads and constructing elevated roads over storm water drains.

The BBMP has undertaken a Rs.643-crore project to remodel 250 km of storm water drains to prevent flooding. It is also modernising markets, rejuvenating 17 tanks close to the city and building 5,000 houses for the urban poor, at a cost of Rs.200 crore.

Admitting that not much had been done for the urban poor, elderly people and women, Subramanya said that day care centres were being set up in a number of places, with ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) supplying lunch for the needy. The government will pay ISKCON Rs.4.50 for every meal. Our welfare systems are not known widely. Of the 56,000 babies born every year, a third are delivered at corporation-run hospitals. We are also setting up small BBMP clinics which will hand out non-prescription drugs, check blood pressure, and so on. They will remain open till 9 p.m..

In a bid to enhance tax collection without changing the rates or bringing in new procedures, the BBMP has decided to establish high value assessment units which will assess buildings for tax. There are 25 lakh properties in the BBMP limits, but we are going to look at just 2,000 of them. These will be assessed by a chartered accountant as per the relevant Act. A lawyer will verify and then serve the demand with the new rates. We will also file a caveat. Any high-asset building that has applied for an occupancy certificate will be visited by the team.

According to the Commissioner, the project has already produced results. The owners of six buildings, who were paying a tax of Rs.1.07 crore, will now have to pay Rs.8 crore. Many buildings, including the corporate office of a public sector company, had not even been assessed. They have now been assessed for Rs.76 lakh. The Information Technology Park Limited has been paying a tax of around Rs1.06 crore; a correct assessment will yield Rs.10 crore. The Infosys Technologies building at Electronic City is also being assessed.

The BBMP is setting up new units called the BBMP Contact Points to address problems in time and reduce red tape at the ward offices. Explains Subramanya: Every group of 4,000 buildings will be monitored by a small BBMP office staffed by five functionaries, including the revenue officer. Our 17,000 employees will be employed for this. Any issue pertaining to those 4,000 buildings, including matters like issuing of khats, the roads in the area, will be under the jurisdiction of the respective contact point. The enforcement officer will go around his area and capture on video the days activities. This will ensure that we have a permanent repository of what happened where and when. The idea is to make ourselves visible, the BBMP presence must be there. We are also setting up a call centre that will have six lines and will be manned by a person 24x7, and complaints have to be attended within two hours. A total of 368 such centres will be set up.

The BBMP is also planning to introduce the shaming concept: the idea is to make public details of every building. Coloured stickers indicating the propertys details, the amount of tax paid, whether it is residential, commercial, or rented, will be handed out along with the tax receipts. These stickers are to be pasted on the building. Every year, the colours will change.

With over 2.5 million vehicles on the already clogged roads and a further 900 being added everyday, Bangalore has been crying out for a modern Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) that not only integrates the existing transport systems but also offers incentives for people to stop using private vehicles. According to V. Madhu, Managing Director, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMTCL), the Special Purpose Vehicle formed on a 50:50 basis by the Central and State governments to implement the metro rail project in Bangalore, the city should have got an MRTS at least 15 years ago.

In 1983, the Metropolitan Transit Project, an organisation of the Indian Railways, prepared a feasibility report for a 57.9-km circular suburban rail service on existing lines. In 1988, a World Bank-aided study carried out by the Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES) recommended a commuter rail system along with improvement of the road transport system. In 1994, a study commissioned by the Bangalore Mass Rapid Transit Limited suggested a public-private partnership model and even selected a partner. None of these projects took off.

In 2003, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, with help from the RITES, submitted a report, which concluded that Bangalore, with its projected Peak Hour Peak Direction Trips (PHPDT) of around 40,000 by 2021, required a metro rail system. Under Phase I, it proposed two electrified corridors: an 18.90-km long East-West line and a 14.10 km North-South line. While the East-West corridor would start from Byappanahalli and terminate at the Mysore Road terminal, the North-South line would begin at Yeshwantpur and terminate at R.V. Road.

Weaving through some of the busiest commercial and residential areas, an almost 8-km stretch of Bangalore Metro will be underground in the stretch from Bangalore City Railway Station to City Market, through Majestic and Vidhana Soudha. Designed for a carrying capacity of 40,000 during peak hours, Bangalore Metro is expected to carry around 10.20 lakh passengers in 2011 and 16.10 lakh by 2021. Initially the train will consist of three self-closing, stainless steel, air-conditioned coaches, each 2.88 m wide, which can accommodate 1,000 people. It will later be augmented to six coaches with a carrying capacity of 2,068 passengers. Fares are expected to be between Rs.7 and Rs.15.

The total outlay for the project is envisaged at Rs.6,395 crore, with funding coming by way of equity (Rs.1,918.50 crore) and subordinate debt (Rs.1,598.75 crores) from both the State and Central governments and senior term debt (Rs.2,877.75 crore). While 17 per cent of senior term debt will come from a consortium of Indian banks led by UTI Bank, the remaining 28 per cent is from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

Land acquisition procedures are under way. Several writ petitions, however, have been filed against the land acquisition and adverse verdicts may disrupt the project. Under the present plan, 138 acres will be acquired from the Centre and 32.22 acres from the State government. In addition, 27 acres will be acquired from private owners at a cost of Rs.566 crore. Cost and time overruns are two things that have been worrying Madhu: It is a mammoth task. The underground tunnelling itself is estimated to cost Rs.1,300 crore. And international companies are busy around the world since so many metro projects are being constructed. With a commissioning deadline on December 31, 2011 (the East-West line will run earlier, in March 2010), the BMRCL has listed over 6,500 tasks that must be completed before that.

The BMRCL has appointed a consortium consisting of Pacific Consultants (Japan), PB Consultants (USA), Systra (France) and RITES as general consultants at a cost of Rs.212 crore. Over the next six years, the consortium will offer 9,000 man months of design and management advice and supervise the project. The global tender that went out for rolling stock (wagons) has attracted big players such as Fireman Transport, Siemens, Bombardier, Norico, Mitsubishi, Alsthom, Rotem and BEML. Initial rolling stock could cost around Rs.750 crore.

The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has been an independent body for just 10 years now; it was part of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation. The BMTC, earlier known as the Bangalore Transport Service, has been around since 1961.

The BMTC has structured its functions under a two-tier system depots and the corporate office. Managing Director Upendra Tripathy says this has been done to have closer liaison and better control and to reduce intermediary posts without compromising on efficiency. The number of buses, the routes covered, frequency and comfort levels have all been increased exponentially.

While the number of kilometres covered in a day has gone up from 4.43 lakh in 1997 to 9.48 lakh now, the BMTCs fleet strength has gone up from 2,098 to 4,606 during the same period. Its services are now available across an area of 479 sq km.

The BMTC hopes to have a fleet of 6,000 buses by 2009-10, which would be just right for Bangalore, according to an Indian Institute of Management report. Between 1997-98 and 2006-07, the BMTCs net worth climbed from the red (minus Rs.11 crore) to Rs.683 crore, and an accumulated loss of Rs.80 crore has been turned into a profit of Rs.460 crore.

Tripathy says the corporations aim is to attract commuters, subsidise fares through non-traffic income and offer world class service at competitive fares. The BMTC plans to spend Rs.1 crore to explain to commuters why they should opt for public transport. It is creating infrastructure to meet the growing needs over the next 30 years. It is, for instance, setting up 45 Traffic Transit Management Centres, which will be sprawling supermarkets. Explains Tripathy: At these centres, people can come and shop, pay utility bills, buy bus tickets, and even park their vehicles.

With traffic congestions causing losses running into crores of rupees, the BMTC hopes to have its entire fleet tracked on line, allowing depot mangers to synergise operations; 1,200 buses are already being tracked on line.

Tripathy also said that the BMTC had hired 2,000 employees who would work in split shifts, fours hours in the morning and again four hours during peak hours in the evening. In order to fund acquisition of vehicles, including 1,000 Volvo buses and 500 Suvarna Karnataka Service buses, build more bus shelters (the city needs over 2,000), and execute other expansion plans, the BMTC may become the first State Transport Corporation in India to take the initial public offering (IPO) route. The shares, with a face value of Rs.10, will be issued at a premium that is yet to be decided.

The BMTCs board has approved the IPO proposal and the corporation hopes to raise around Rs.4,000 crore through the shares. The proposal has now been placed before the State government. The corporations 22,000 employees will be offered an employee stock ownership plan subject to a maximum of 200 shares, which will be given at par. The IPO could be out by early 2008. Says Tripathy: Only by providing ultra modern buses and quality service can we attract commuters who are otherwise using two wheelers and cars. And to maintain a professional service you need funds.

Supplying water and taking care of the sanitation needs of a growing city can be a daunting task; more so when the city is 90 km away from the closest river source and the water has to be pumped up to an elevation of a hundred feet, and when most of the natural and artificial lakes and tanks that traditionally fed the city have either been polluted or encroached upon.

At present, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), constituted in October 1964, supplies 840 MLD (millions of litres per day) of water, chiefly from the Cauvery and the Arkavathy, translating into a supply of 100 to 110 litres per capita per day. Covering a core area of 226 sq km with an adjacent area of 75 sq km, the Board has 5.5 lakh water supply connections.

With areas to be supplied increasing, ground water becoming scarce and the supply already lagging behind demand, the deficit is expected to touch 1,050 MLD by 2036; that is, the Board will be able to provide 1,500 MLD of water against a demand of 2,550 MLD. The BWSSBs new initiative is to treat waste water and re-use it for potable purposes. With the available water sources, there appears to be no alternative to looking to unconventional methods of water supply, including recycling.

BWSSB Chairperson G. Latha Krishna Rao said: Recycled water is already being used for non-potable purposes by industries. Recycling water for potable purposes will have to be a major initiative in our plans if we are to satisfy Bangalores drinking water requirements. Wastewater, after being treated through the ultra filtration process (which uses the cellulose membrane technology), will be taken via a separate pipeline and then made to blend with the reservoir water. This water will then be taken through the regular filtration process before it is pumped into the system.

According to Latha Krishna Rao, the Board is thinking of installing two ultra filtration plants: one with a capacity of 200 MLD at the Vrushabavathi Valley at a cost of Rs.860 crore and another with a capacity of 400 MLD at a cost of Rs.1,300 crore in the KC Valley. The project could take three years to implement. Latha Krishna Rao said: In the case of the KC Valley, ultra filtration plant, 400 MLD of the 675 MLD of wastewater that is generated will be taken to the plant, treated and then made to blend with water at the Hesaraghatta reservoir. At the moment we are not able to pump water from reservoirs like Hesaraghatta since the levels are too low. By pumping in treated water, I can increase the level and pump out water. The water from the reservoir will be filtered through the regular process and treated and pumped to Bangalore. I can get around 200 to 250 MLD of good water.

Among the projects that the BWSSB has in the pipeline are the Rs.3,443-crore, 500-MLD water supply scheme for Bangalore, funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, under the Cauvery Water Supply Scheme-Phase II, which is scheduled to be completed by 2011-12; the JNNURM- and World Bank-assisted Karnataka Municipal Reforms Project (completion by 2011) to supply water to eight urban bodies and provide water and sanitation to 110 urbanised villages that have been recently added to Bangalore city (Rs.1,400 crore); and the Rs.700 crore proposal for the rehabilitation of water supply distribution systems in the core area of Bangalore.

The BWSSB currently operates 12 wastewater treatment plants with an installed capacity of 718 MLD. The Board expects a generation of 1570 MLD of sewage by 2036. During 2006-07, against a revenue demand of Rs.414.87 crore, the revenue collected was Rs.398.52 crore, resulting in accumulated arrears of Rs.236.05 crore. The BWSSB continues to lose revenue on account of public taps and unaccounted water (Rs.66.98 crore) for which they have requested the government for a full subsidy to cover unauthorised connections. In an attempt to find out where and how the service-oriented, no loss, no profit organisation truly stands vis-a-vis the other establishments, the BWSSB has asked ICRA Limited, one of India 7;s leading credit rating consultants, to assess the Board. The rating, which should be out by November, will, according to Latha Krishna Rao, not only help the BWSSB to see where it stands but will also enable it to secure funding from the public and financial institutions.

With Karnataka rapidly urbanising and nearly a third of its population living in urban areas, the Karnataka government deemed it fit to set up a public limited company to assess the infrastructure needs of urban areas, prepare, formulate and implement projects, act as the nodal agency to implement government programmes and raise financial resources.

In November 1993, this idea fructified with the forming of the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation Limited (KUIDFCL). Since then, the company has been functioning as the main arm of the State government with regard to urban infrastructure development projects and as the governments interface with external lending agencies.

It also implements schemes and programmes relating to infrastructure development in urban areas, particularly land development, sanitation, road management, transportation and provides technical and other assistance to urban bodies for development schemes, including implementation of master plans. The KUIDFCL also provides consultancy services and extends financial assistance by way of loans and advances to corporations, municipalities, urban development authorities. The company has already completed the Asian Development Bank(ADB)-assisted Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Project. It is implementing the ADB-assisted Karnataka Urban Development and Coastal Environmental Management Project, the North Karnataka Urban Sector Investment Programme, the World Bank-assisted Karnataka Urban Water Sector Improvement Project, the Karnataka Municipal Reforms Project and the JNNURM-sponsored Bangalore Mega City Scheme.

It is also involved in the preparation of City Level Investment Plans for the remaining 146 urban local bodies in the State that are not covered under externally aided projects.

The KUIDFCL hopes to emerge as a full-fledged State-level financial institution performing two key functions: project development and financing. It has been nominated by the Government of India as the State-level nodal agency for pooled finance development facility. It has an Empowered Committee for the management of externally aided projects. The Committee, which has been constituted for efficient, effective and speedy decision-making has been given full authority with regard to project implementation activities, including approval of works and contracts, appointment of consultants, and so on. It acts as a single window system for all the clearances/approvals required from various government departments.

To manage funds provided under the JNNURM, the KUIDFCL has set up a State-level Steering Committee, which identifies projects, prioritise identified projects and monitors the progress of these projects. Also, to facilitate speedy decisions and approvals of projects and with a view to achieving coordination between various implementing agencies and government departments, another empowered committee has been constituted for JNNURM.

Buying a plot of land in Bangalore has been a nightmare for decades. Either the cost or the legal hassles could put land out of peoples reach. One had to venture into the far-flung suburbs to buy a revenue site, which may not have any civic amenities and could also land you in the courts if the papers are not clear. The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has been trying to find a solution to the problem.

Though it was set up three decades ago, the BDA had largely been dormant for many years. Its inefficient legal team was unable to extricate it from lengthy legal hassles that it got embroiled in while acquiring land. Things changed in the late 1990s. The organisations motto is to transform Bangalore into an ideal global destination with high quality infrastructure, better quality of life by ensuring sustainable and planned development based on effective monitoring, regulation, through participatory and innovative approach. It seeks to plan, regulate, control, monitor and facilitate urban development in Bangalore.

According to BDA Commissioner M.K. Shankaralinge Gowda, plans are afoot to form six new layouts in the north, east and west of Bangalore: The layouts will allow the BDA to distribute around 50,000 sites. And most importantly, these layouts are as per the master plan (Comprehensive Development Plan) for Bangalore. The idea is to disperse the population, and also the investment that is coming to the City."

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