N.R. Suresh, director, NBF: Bengaluru’s parastatal agencies have repeatedly demonstrated their apathy towards our city’s environment, particularly our lakes and wetlands. The National Green Tribunal’s dismissal of the government’s review petition instructing the latter to earmark Rs 500 cr for the rejuvenation of Bellandur lake.
Fines amount to Rs75 cr to be paid to the Central and State Pollution Control Boards for damages to Bellandur lake system is the latest example of this apathy.
This budget has not prioritised lakes and the environment, the government has only decided to set-up 3 Continuous Water Quality Monitoring Stations at a total cost of Rs 9 crore at Bellandur, Agara and Varthur lakes as per NGT directions. It has also said that it will work to prevent entry of sewage at 914 entry points with storm water drain at a cost of Rs 76.55 crore. The CM has also stated that the Government will prioritise rejuvenation of Thippa—gondanahalli reservoir and establish waste water processing plants which is expected to be completed 2020.
While preventing dumping of sewage in SWD, the Government must focus on prosecuting polluters who are misusing SWDs to dump sewage and contaminate our lakes and ground water. Only recently a BWSSB jetting machine was filmed by Namma Bengaluru Foundation dumping raw sewage into a SWD yet no one was prosecuted. Therefore, Government needs to focus on prosecution of officials. Along with rejuvenating Thippagon—danahalli reservoir the government must focus on prioritising the rejuvenation of Byramangala reservoir in Ramanagara district which is now a Public Health hazard to villagers living around the lake.
Suresh Heblikar, Environmentalist: The budget seems to be in favour of the farming community, as was predicted, to a large extent. The chief minister had proclaimed in his manifesto about the waiving of farmers’ loans in case he came to power. He is trying to prove that he stands by his manifesto. The CM has stressed several areas where the farmers might draw the doles or benefits. Silk, irrigation and developing the lakes have received major focus.
The budget mentions also some Israeli models in agriculture and competition with China, but they are not stressed except that a provision of Rs 150 crore for each project is specified. There is stress on grapes and pomegranates and also some emphasis on mango processing in Dharwad. The budget has shown favour towards underground water and horticulture development with allocations of Rs 100 crore for underground water development and Rs 4,000 crore for “Jaladhare’project.The budget also announces Rs 2,500 crore for milk production.
An allotment of Rs 17,000 crore is in the pipeline for filling up of lakes in all villages, talukas and small towns. There is also a provision of finances for biofuel and biogas. These are good initiatives no doubt but how will some of these be implemented is a large question. Water is going to be a serious issue with forests not getting the importance. The forests, especially the Western Ghats, need to be looked at when we talk about filling up of lakes.
V. Ravi Chandar civic evangelist: The Budget is good for its solution for water and sewerage. The one more Cauvery programme under the BMRDA is a progressive measure to see that Bengaluru's outskirts follow a sustainable water strategy. Constructing STPs up to 1,700 MLD and specific measures to stop flow of sewage into storm water drains is welcome. So too the water canal idea. On mobility, one wishes that all schemes emerged from a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority strategy road map, instead of disparate projects. The elevated road is more private vehicle-centric when more spending is needed on buses and even footpaths. The PRR strip development model risks becoming another ORR.
Srinivas Alavalli, activist: The many pages allocated to Bengaluru in the Budget made me wonder if I'm reading BBMP budget or Karnataka government budget! We really need to establish the state finance commission and devolve tax revenues to the city corporations so they can make their decisions. CM is not our Mayor. From a Bengaluru perspective, the budget scores well on intent but fails miserably when it comes to actual numbers. After extolling the virtues of public transport and committing to more buses, it allocates a paltry Rs 50 crore to buses and says 'more grants will come next year', while allocating Rs 1,000 crore for antiquated ideas like elevated corridors, that mobility experts declare as useless.
Priya Chetty Rajagopal, urban expert: A few points jumped out at me given my own orientation. First, the focus on transportation seemed to ratify what has already been decided rather than anything fresh. For example, the Metro line from Silk Board to airport at Rs 1,6579 crore has been on the anvil. While there is nothing new, speed and execution is required. What is important is setting up of suburban rail services SPV, B-Ride, at Rs 23,093 crore, which has already been announced. It desperately needs proper implementation to make the difference on the highly congested and impossible traffic situation in the city. The priority for public transport and a grant to increase the number of the BMTC buses, last mile connectivity, priority for public transport and a comprehensive mobility scheme again are excellent but old ideas and need granularity detailing and actual implementation....