'World-class city' and 'world-class infrastructure' ?
In general, third world urban infrastructure is associated with:
- lopsided expenditure, three-fourths of the money being spent on one-fourth of the (wealthier) people
- ugly elevated highways and flyovers, traffic jams
- emphasis on motorized private transport, few or no facilities for pedestrians and cyclists
- poor housing, lack of drinking water, poor medicare
- high air pollution, high water pollution
- destruction of greenery, heritage buildings and history of places
- lack of concern for the rights of the physically challenged, the elderly and children.
In sum, raping the voiceless and the environment.
First world infrastructure in general is the opposite of this. Infrastructure is for people, the environment is
paramount, and nobody needs to fight to be included in civic plans.
‘Infrastructure’ means flyovers, elevated highways and high speed roads for private traffic.
Infrastructure never means housing, drinking water, schooling, medicare, affordable transport.
Private transport is encouraged, public transport is discouraged – even though 50 % of the people travel by bus
and vast numbers of people cycle or walk.
Pedestrians, the elderly, the physically challenged and children are never considered when designing roads,
parks or buildings.
There is zero town planning.
The government plans to widen 140 km. of roads involving the destruction of thousands of homes, businesses
and heritage buildings, the livelihood of thousands of footpath vendors, and cutting down 30,000 to 40,000 trees.
All characteristics of third world infrastructure, steeped in the developing country syndrome described above.
Here are some instances of serious anomalies in transport:
Per passenger, cars are the most polluting form of transport, followed by 2-wheelers. Pollution per person in a
bus is 1/6 that of a car.
Road space occupied by a person in a bus is 1/30 of that in a car.
The person least responsible for the air pollution and traffic congestion is the person most affected by them, and
the least able to afford their consequences:
- Respiratory diseases that cause poorer daily quality of life, loss of work pay caused by illness and
- Loss of mobility on roads because pedestrian facilities like footpaths and pedestrian crossings are poor and
even non-existent in most places. The new airport road has 5 pedestrian crossings on a 35 km. stretch of road.
- Inability to use the cheapest mode of personal transport, the bicycle.
I've mentioned example from transport infrastructure because I know something about it. There are of course
similar anomalies in water, power and housing, medicare and education.
Here’s a suggestion. Abandon the obsession with traffic and roads. Instead of spending Rs. 25000 Cr. on roads,
spend Rs. 5000 Cr. on a bus-based public transport system and seriously discourage private transport. Spend
the rest of the money on water, housing, schooling and other necessities. This is a simplistic suggestion, but you
get the drift.
Successive governments talk of developing Bangalore into a ‘world class city’ with 'world class infrastructure', but
are obsessed with the traffic and roads. They should change track before people begin to wonder which world
they are talking about : the first or the third.