At a time when researchers have been pointing out unlivable conditions in many cities, things could just get worse following a new amendment passed by the Karnataka state government. 

 

The Karnataka Urban Development Authorities (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was hastily tabled by the government in the Assembly on 18 July 2016 and declared passed without debate. 

 

The bill reduces the reserved green space in urban areas from 15 percent to 10 percent. Since the newly available land will be used for development, this move will inevitably lead to a shrinking of open spaces, playgrounds, parks and green cover. 

 

Activists and environmentalists have come down heavily on the state government for having given the nod to such an amendment that could reduce the greenery and lung space in places like Bengaluru and Mysuru. 

 

"The unholy haste in which the Siddaramaiah Government has pushed the Karnataka Urban Development Authorities (Amendment) Bill 2016, that will allow green spaces to be handed over to builders, is further proof about the priorities of this government and its callous disregard for responsibility towards citizens and towns. Such a step will be a fast track route to making cities of our state ‘Unlivable’," said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka, in a statement condemning the new amendment.  

 

"A study says 60 percent of children in our cities have health issues as the chemical pollution, biological pollution and physical suffocation has increased. This is because of the increase in the population of both humans and vehicles. If lung space is further reduced, cities will collapse," said Dr Yellappa Reddy, Chairman, Karnataka Park Committee.

 

Echoing similar sentiments, a member of the Friends of Lakes group said, "An online petition has been started by a few citizens against this bill. Whether it is Bengaluru or any other place, if such foolish bills take up even more open space, it will create an ecological imbalance."

 

Namma Bengaluru Foundation and  Bengaluru  Residents Association Confederation and Ensemble  (BRACE) have written a letter to the Governor of Karnataka requesting Governor Vajubhai Vala to deny his assent to the bill.

 

"This bill aims to further reduce the perilously small lung space already available to the hapless citizens of cities across the state. With one stroke of a pen, the government aims to restrict open spaces to just 10 % of the total layout area instead of the current 15%," said Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO,  Namma Bengaluru Foundation. 

 

Newspaper reports suggest that bills to amend the Karnataka Municipal Corporations, Act, 1976 and the Bangalore Development Authority, Act, 1976 along similar lines are ready to be introduced. 

 

These will make the changes applicable to Bengaluru and other Municipal Corporations in Karnataka.