Why our cities are sinking!

And how we can save them.

At some places, we are dangerously close to breaking point; at others, we are skirting disaster. According to reports, the Karnataka Government was contemplating a ban on the construction of new apartments in Bengaluru to resolve water scarcity.
The deputy chief minister revealed that there was a gap between construction of new residential apartments and the amenities provided to these spaces.
As cited in this column earlier, until and unless there is an account of the infrastructure index before giving permissions for construction, this problem will continue to worsen and reach alarming proportions. A few years ago, when addressing the same issue, the BMC commissioner had disagreed with my suggestion that construction ought to be banned. Here’s what I had said in my column in 2016:
Ideally, construction in cities with a population over 5 million should be banned until and unless the municipal corporation can provide proof of the capacity per capita in terms of ability of the city to handle traffic and sewerage, and provide water and power. These cut-off capacities should be published on their websites permanently and should be sacrosanct in implementation or else all – Pune, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Mumbai – will follow Delhi in becoming dangerous cities. (Already, 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India.) Delhi is bathing in dust as construction debris and dust are contributing to 45 per cent of the pollution in the city. So while the CM of Delhi is at his wits’ end over the odd-even car scheme, the real culprit goes unchecked. A city administration must develop city infra projects to raise the capacities of services before giving a nod to growth.
The High Court had similarly banned construction in Mumbai in March 2016 over the inability of the state government to provide landfills for the waste generated by the city. The city had assured the court but could not fulfil this condition. After several pleas, the Supreme Court lifted the ban only in March 2018. To date, the issue has not been satisfactorily resolved – and this is what is taking our cities to the brink of disaster. Few large cities in India are able to treat wastewater before dumping in the closest lakes or the sea. The other fast-growing cities are also not paying too much heed to this aspect of growth – infrastructure capacity measurement and account.
Sand mining, not recharging groundwater, landfills, plastic waste, e-waste, untreated sewage water and effluent dumping are some other alarming time bombs in our cities. Just like a challenge brought forth the competitive spirit in smart cities, the Centre has to make ‘infrastructure capacity accounting’ mandatory before any transfer of funds to cities. Our cities are engines of growth and provide revenue for the Centre to be able to look after the welfare of over 500,000 villages across the country.
Following the implementation of the green building movement in 2001, India is aspiring to a green building footprint of 10 billion sq ft by 2022.
As in March 2018, the country has already achieved 5.27 billion sq ft, making us the second in the world in terms of the largest registered green building footprint. However, with this flagrant abuse of the national building code guidelines, this green movement is seriously under threat. RERA’s scope may not cover this aspect but it is time state urban planning authorities took the onus.
Our 14th Construction World Architect & Builder Awards are being held alongside SMART URBANATION on September 24, 2019, in Bengaluru. Smart Urbanation is India’s biggest event that will see the convergence of architects, designers, urban planning authorities, municipal commissioners from over 60 cities, realty finds, builders and developers, facility management companies, building and other speciality contractors, and many more. Book your seats now – go to www.CWABawards.com and www.SmartUrbanation.com to learn more.