Karnataka Department of Town and Country Planning in association with several urban planning and administration divisions of Karnataka are investing huge amounts of public money in a workshop on “Transfer of Development Rights – Pros and Cons & Town Planning Schemes” to be held at the elite Hotel Capitol in Bangalore on 14 September 2010. A copy of the invitation sent out to a select group of invitees is enclosed.
The schedule of the workshop reveals that the purpose is to promote TDR as the only approach in accessing land for urban infrastructure projects. Major themes being addressed are: “Incentives to Owners by Means of Development Rights”; “Issues in Implementation of TDR”; “New Concept of TDR”, etc. The complex and adverse social, economic and environmental impacts that a TDR based approach to urban development will result in is being comprehensively ignored. Of course, an apology of sorts is probably offered to such critical concerns by inviting willing voluntary organisations such as Janaagraha and Save Bangalore Committee, whose representatives have been asked to address, respectively some vague topics such as: “TDR and Current Issues” and “TDR: A People's Perspective”. Not to be missed out is the extra-ordinary importance given to the real estate lobby by inviting CREDAI to present its views. No where in the schedule is any attention being paid to question if the projects promoted on TDR are at all needed and viable.
Urban Development Minister Suresh Kumar is to deliver the inaugural address, thus defining the importance the Government attaches to this workshop. Shockingly, a state workshop on a burning issue such as TDR has absolutely no scope for anyone affected by the scheme to participate. Not one street vendor, not one tenant, not one trader, not one home-owner, not one senior citizen, not one Corporator, not one Legislator, not one urban and regional planner, not one architect, not one sociologist, not one environmental researcher, not one urban landscape ecologist or conservationist, not one economist, …. has been invited to this workshop.
Enquiries with the Town Planning Department reveal that only a select band of invitees are welcome to this workshop per the design of “Members of the Core Committee” who have organised this workshop. Interestingly, this Committee is largely constituted by retired bureaucrats, whose claim to being experts in such complex issues is rather tenuous. Simply stated, the legitimacy of such a Committee is fundamentally flawed and the investment of public money in such an exercise has to be widely questioned – especially considering that key agencies will derive lessons from this flawed debate and continue their disastrous implementation of urban infrastructure projects, simply because Urban Minister Suresh Kumar legistimise this exercise by his participation.
Clearly undemocratic, this workshop falls into a pattern of the manner in which the current Government is approaching complex urban issues and concerns. Driven by its zeal to push expensive and mega urban projects whose public purpose is largely undemonstrated, this workshop once more demonstrates the callous disregard of urban development agencies to the due role of constitutionally elected bodies such as City Councils and the Legislature - primary bodies that should be involved in any government initiative addressing such concerns. The due right of ordinary public and project affected communities to fully participate in decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods is also attacked by the current approach of the State sidestepping such statutory procedures.
A disturbing aspect of this workshop is that the organisers have demonstrated their callous disregard to a key directive of the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka in a PIL filed by Environment Support Group vs. State and ors.(WP No. 7107/2008 ) questioning the legality of the road widening scheme based on TDR, amongst others things. The Court accepting the petitioners contention ruled that the Government must undertake road widening or any other such project only if it had strictly conformed with due participatory planning provisions of Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act. Not one agency of the Government has invested their time or resource to so comply with this direction of the High Court. The workshop completely ignores this glaring fact.
Keeping the above in view, as an organisation that has consistently and actively addressed multifarious, complex and adverse impacts on lives and livelihoods of lakhs of people by ill-thought schemes such as the TDR, Environment Support Group condemns such workshop initiatives by the Karnataka Government. Besides being a wasteful investment of public money, the initiative assume illegality as it is organised by the very agencies that continue to comprehensively violate the High Court order. Rather than legitimising such illegal ventures, we demand that Mr. Kumar must instead invest his time in ensuring that all urban developments schemes and projects are truthfully subjected to planning and public involvement processes as required per the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, Nagarapalika Act, etc. We also call upon elected representatives of all urban local bodies and the Legislature to voice their protests against such initiatives as they totally sidestep constitutionally guaranteed mechanisms of debate and enquiry.
Needless to state, we stand by the rights of all communities and individuals affected directed or indirectly by urban projects based on TDR and their just demands that this flawed scheme must be abandoned immediately.
Leo F. Saldanha
Bhargavi S. Rao
Environment Support Group
[Environmental Social Justice and Governance Initiatives]
1572, 36th Cross, Ring Road, Banashankari II Stage, Bangalore 560070