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Bengaluru’s green ambitions: trade-offs and challenges

Bengaluru: For a city like Bengaluru, which is a top runner in economic growth and infrastructure development, successful implementation of the climate action plan may also mean prioritising the environment over money or development.

“We have to be ready for the trade-off. Given that the city has always prioritised infrastructure development and economic growth, the plan will not yield results if the stakeholders don’t change their priorities,” Harini Nagendra, professor, Azim Premji University, told DH.

The challenges are manifold because BCAP is a statutory document and is not something that government agencies or private establishments have to adhere to. “Recently, there have been wide discussions over tunnel roads, flyovers, and many infrastructure projects. All these projects and the future projects should be evaluated in the light of climate change. Unless BCAP is used as a guiding document to approve any projects, it will be of not much use,” said Ashish Verma, Professor, Indian Institute of Science (IISc). “For instance, the government approved the Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (BMLTA) Bill but the authority is yet to become operational. This should not continue with BCAP. BMLTA should soon be made operational and BCAP should be a guiding document for BMLTA,” he said.

Echoing Verma’s opinion that the BCAP is only a statutory document, Jaya Dhindaw, Executive Director, Sustainable Cities, WRI India, opined that the success of the plan lies in bringing together a large number of private and public agencies together.“During the preparation of the document, we had to consult over 40 government agencies. If we consider the private agencies, the number of organistions that have to come together to implement this plan is high. Each one of them has to take ownership and be responsible for its implementation,” she said.

Harini Nagendra added that it was the government’s responsibility to streamline the process. “Many NGOs, civic society groups, and even corporates are trying to fight combat change in their own way. However, all of it has to be streamlined and the government should coordinate with the various agencies to make this successful,” she said.

While the plan looks good on paper, it also sets an ambitious target of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 making it a finance-intensive project. Moving towards the use of green energy, transition to cleaner public transport vehicles and many such initiatives need huge amounts of funds, and pooling in this could be a big challenge pointed out Professor Krishna Raj from the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC).

“Transition towards net zero compels the financially starved state government and BBMP to set aside a huge budget and it also hinges on central grants both in the short and long-term. Both the state and BBMP can demonstrate their political will by announcing a separate budget for city climate action. That apart, the government can also make use of CSR and economic instruments such as carbon credits and pollution taxes to make the plan financially viable,” he suggested. 

That apart, experts also opined that there is a need to control unplanned growth in the city, which is a major cause of many of the disasters. “The Bengaluru climate action plan is supposed to make Bengaluru more resilient to the impact of climate change. Two major problems that Bengaluru faces are flooding and “urban heat island”. Both will become worse as global warming continues unabated. Both problems can be tackled if the land use pattern is changed. This requires that we have more greenery and lakes between different localities. I am not sure how the Bangalore climate action plan will be implemented unless there is a moratorium on the uncontrolled growth of Bengaluru,” said Professor J Srinivasan, Distinguished Scientist at the Divecha Centre for Climate Change.

Citizen engagement and knowledge dissemination could also help monitor the implementation of BCAP, said Preeti Sunderajan, a member of the Citizens for Sankey, a collective of residents from Malleswaram, Sadashivanagar, and Vyalikaval.

“The number of sectors involved is huge and no one official can understand the nuances in every sector. Hence, it is important that they constitute an expert committee that can work with citizens to monitor the implementation,” she said. 

Changing rain patterns, warmer winters, and extremely high temperatures during the summer are clear indications that the city is bearing the stress of climate change. Experts who spoke to this reporter expressed concerns about the implementation of the BCAP and cautioned the government that there was a pressing need to take immediate measures. “It might not be too late. But if we do not act immediately, it might be too late,” Verma said.

(Published 16 December 2023, 21:19 IST)

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