The State Government's budget has proposed to construct the Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) of Bengaluru with an estimated cost of Rs 17,200 crore including its maintenanceexpenditure to reduce traffic congestion in the city. Rs 1,000 crore has been budgeted for the year 2019-20.
Bengaluru has been attempting to complete several large ring road projects to improve its city-region connectivity and alleviate traffic congestion. A series of ring roads namely, the Satellite Town Ring Road (STRR), Intermediate Ring Road (IRR), Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) and Town Ring Roads (TRR) have been envisaged. The NICE Corridor implementation was also undertaken of which the southern arc has been constructed. All of these ring road projects are either incomplete or have been stalled due to land acquisition hurdles, and cost and time over runs.
The 65km long PRR has been languishing since 2005 when it was conceived by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) to reduce traffic congestion in the city. Public investments in infrastructure (especially roads) have several benefits including positive correlations to economic output. How these investments are manifested on the ground plays an equally important role. The implementation of the Outer Ring Road (ORR) for example offers critical lessons (on what not to do) as it led to a disconnected road network structure in the city.
The ORR was built as an isolated strip of road and all other hierarchies of connected roads beyond the arterial such as sub arterials, collectors and local streets were not planned for. In many areas, this did not allow any lower level of traffic mobility for collection and distribution purposes, and for entrances of businesses and residences. The Eastern arc of the ORR became the preferred destination for IT companies that took up large parcels of land along it. However, land parcels beyond this first layer of plots abutting the ORR have very low connectivity to this major road investment.This type of development cannot be reversed once built and creates a long term lock in of a poorly planned area.
The way forward for the PRR could hence be envisioned on the following lines:
1) A distance of at least 1km on either side of the PRR needs to have a larger area development approach in place. This not only indicatessetting in place a connected and structured road network in the area but also planning for open spaces, green spaces, and other physical and social infrastructure needs of neighbourhoods.The Bengaluru Master Plan 2031 which is currently under revision is the best opportunityavailable to address this need and must not be lost.
2) The PRR has stretches of greenfield agricultural land, and some stretches of developed and built upon land. 'Land readjustment schemes' could be used in the greenfield areas as theybringtogether groups of land owners who pool theirland parcels for development. After deductingarea for infrastructure and social amenities,including affordable housing, the remaining landis reconstituted into regularly shaped plots by thegovernment and distributed back to the originalowners. The land owners hence become stakeholders in the development.
3) Government coffers will not get strained to build the road or develop the area, when they opt for such an alternative mechanism to develop the land. The burden of upfront payment of cash compensation as in compulsory acquisition is eliminated. Government agencies also have options to use land as a fiscal tool to finance further infrastructure developments. Ahmedabad successfully completed its ring road (76km length) in record time using the Town Planning Scheme (a method of land readjustment). The presence of a visible and dynamic official who gained the trust of the people was also criticalin the successful execution of this project andmust be replicated in Bengaluru.
The potential of the PRR to enable area development, planned urban expansion and to serve as an ideal tool for land value capture needs to be recognised and accordingly implemente.
The writer is head, Urban Development, World Resources Institute, India...