The contentious recommendation on allowing buildings to construct beyond the number of floors permitted by law in the Central Business District (CBD) by introducing a category called premium floor space index (FSI) has sparked off a debate among urban planners.
In an e-mail interview with The Hindu, Mohandas Pai, chairperson of the Manipal Education Group and key member of the Karnataka Information and Communication Technology Group 2020, defends the recommendation.
What was the thought behind the recommendation?
Bangalore has become a sprawling city extending more than 850 sq km. This has created problems of traffic, commute, high costs, pollution and stress on infrastructure. This is the wrong model. Cities are aggregations of human activity and need to be close knit to make them liveable. All cities need a core of high-rise where business is concentrated, then slightly lower outside and then maybe ancillaries beyond that. The core of the city has less FSI. With a higher FSI there will be more built space, lower costs, more jobs and better efficiency due to concentration of economic activity.
The core area will be well served by the metro. Next year we will have 42 km [of the metro rail], the second phase of 75 km is approved and the third phase of 135 km will be planned soon. This will dramatically change commuting and traffic necessitating high rise in the core areas.
Today because of low FSI, the core areas have become high cost driving out business, reducing jobs, increasing traffic and bringing commercial activities to areas on the periphery creating more problems. At this rate the heart of the city will die. Look at Chickpet, Balepet, Cunningham Road: business is dying and going elsewhere. This will kill the core of the city. Further, too much of land — part of it fertile — is getting diverted for plots whereas the city would need lesser land if it is high-rise. We need to stop this urban sprawl and concentrate activity. The core areas should become walking areas for people to walk to work.
Bangalore has 10 million people and the existing model is broken. The Bangalore Development Authority has been unable to give sites due to resistance from farmers and getting and is difficult. The only solution is vertical growth.
How do you react to the criticism that doing this puts too much pressure on existing resources?
Nope, this will only make better use of what we have than having to build more at the edge of the city since there is so much of sprawl. Pressure can be on power, water, roads and traffic. Power systems can be easily enhanced, water pipelines are adequate as also sewage, traffic will be managed by the metro and by concentrated activity, cross-city traffic will come down.