The road ahead! Move Bengaluru to satellite towns

The much-awaited Satellite Town Ring Road (STRR), connecting different taluks like Devanahalli, Hosakote, Ramanagara, Kanakapura and Hosur, could play a crucial role in decongesting the ever-growing city. It will also help form a string of Tier-II towns around the city. But the government should ensure proper connectivity, transportation and social infrastructure to make these towns liveable. At the same time, the government should not compromise on the ecological sensitivity of the countryside in the name of development, says Chandrashekar G.

It has been all talk and no action for many years. Although the state government has been harping on decongesting Bengaluru, that is bursting at the seams with people and traffic, hardly any effort has been made to develop satellite towns and provide them better connectivity.

While the Bengaluru Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA) had planned five satellite towns with good road connectivity in 2006 during the JD(S) -led coalition government, the project did not take off for various reasons.

But now there is hope as the Satellite Town Ring Road (STRR) project connecting Dobbspet (Tumakuru road), Devanahalli (Hyderabad road), Doddaballapur (Hindupur road), Hosur (Chennai road), Anekal (Thali road), Hosakote (Kolar road), Kanakapura (Kollegal road), Ramanagara (Mysuru road), Magadi (Kunigal road) has received a fresh lease of life with Union Surface Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari giving it the green signal  recently as part of the Bharatmala road project.

Going by a National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) official,  a  Detailed Project Report (DPR) and a techno-feasibility report are being finalised and tenders will be awarded shortly for the six-lane, 140 km  long STRR planned at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore  that   will not only connect towns around Bengaluru but also the Hosur region of Tamil Nadu. 

The project , which aims to connect a portion of the STRR to the proposed Bengaluru-Chennai expressway via Hosakote and Malur as well, will have many uses.

Take the road from Electronics City that connects NICE and Hosur, which has a very high density of traffic. Once the STRR is commissioned, the vehicles will be able to avoid Hosur town altogether, say NHAI sources.

In the past it was proposed to acquire land under section 7 (1) of the Karnataka Highway Act, 1964 and a Techno-Economic Feasibility Report (TEFR) was prepared for the project, which was proposed to be taken up in four packages – North, East, West and South.

But demands for increasing the compensation for land acquisition to bring it on par with market rates, changing alignments and so on brought it to a halt.

It’s not just about the roads
While the authorities  may be on the right track where the Satellite Town Ring Road (STRR) connecting different taluks like Devanahalli, Hosakote, Ramanagar, Kanakapur and Hosur is concerned, civic activists warn that unless  an environment is created to attract people to new satellite towns, it will not achieve very much.

Noting that Bengaluru is stretched when it comes to water and managing municipal solid waste,  Mr D. S. Rajshekar, president of the Citizens’ Action Forum (CAF) says it’s time to break the myth that everything is available in the city and a similar atmosphere  provided in other towns to draw people away from it. Civic evangelist, V. Ravichandar , for his part, is happy  the National Highway Authority of India(NHAI)  has agreed to fund the STRR.

“NHAI’s willingness to partner with the state government in such a mega project will ease the financial and technical burden on the state,” he observes.
But in his view, it's also important to have an  STRR linking towns like Hubballi, Dharwad, Mysuru and Mangaluru.

“It’s important to understand the technical aspects of town planning. It should be a win-win proposition for people who are losing their land for the project. One has to think on the lines of area development rather than building just a road,” he cautions.

Explaining the advantages of the STRR, he says it prevents people from going through busy cities and reach their destinations faster even if they route may be a little circuitous. “ For instance, reaching Bengaluru from Devanahlli without having to go through the city and through alternate routes is a pleasure. Roads are the drivers for economic and commerce growth,” he sums up.

‘New townships, yes, but don’t mess with their rustic flavour’
Bengaluru has grown by leaps and bounds with the development of the IT-BT sector and has no doubt benefited from it. But the city is also facing several side- effects of its rampant and rapid growth.

Water supply, solid waste management, pollution,  traffic snarls, and infrastructure have become a major challenge. The city has reached a saturation point and forming satellite towns and connecting them with the Satellite Town Ring Road (STRR) is the panacea that successive governments  have either failed to realise or wanted  seen only on paper!

Like an industrial hub is decided based on the availability of resources, development should also be planned and not concentrated only in Bengaluru. Tamil Nadu is a model as its industrial activities are not  concentrated in one area, but are spread out in places like Tirpur, Hosur, Salem and Tiruchi. We should have similar town planning and industrial hub development in our state.

We also need to understand the reason why Bengaluru attracts people.  The city is a magnet due to its connectivity, transportation, social infrastructure and amusement quotient. These factors must be replicated in smaller cities and towns to stop their people from migrating to Bengaluru and congesting it.

Everyone wants quality education and better living conditions for their  families. If these are made available at affordable cost in smaller towns , who will  not accept them? But we must make sure that these towns'  rustic and ecological sensitivity is not  tampered with in the process and their original flavour is retained.
Tallam Venkatesh, ex-president of federation of karnataka chambers of commerce and industry

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