Coalition in Bangalore launches citizen engagement initiative with WRI India Sustainable Cities
The success of neighborhood planning often hinges on community engagement. Recognizing this, WRI India Sustainable Cities launched a collaborative initiative on May 7, 2015 called Citizens for the City with partner organizations United Technologies Corporation (UTC), Centre for Public Problem Solving, BBMP, BPAC and United Way of Bengaluru. The first initiative of Citizens for the City is a Neighborhood Improvement Partnership (NIP) Challenge, which encourages citizen groups to work together to resolve key issues in transport, safety, energy conservation, waste management, and public health.
In a call for applications, the NIP Challenge has asked local resident associations and citizen groups to submit innovative ideas for transforming their neighborhoods. In return, selected entries will receive technical support and grants of up to INR 150,000 (USD 25,000) each from UTC. In total, INR 10,000,000 (USD 157,000) will be given out through grants.
A History of Community Engagement in Bangalore
Neighborhood improvement plans, like the NIP Challenge, have a history in Bangalore of making urban planning and management more inclusive. In March of 2013, WRI India’s sustainable cities team partnered with HSR layout, piloting a neighborhood improvement plan that incorporated local voices. Through various stakeholder meetings, the community was encouraged to come forward with their ideas, challenges, fears, and aspirations for the future of their neighborhoods. In conjunction with these meetings, key urban issues, including mobility, accessibility, signage, place identity, biodiversity, and public spaces were researched at the neighborhood level.
The neighborhood improvement plan yielded some success. For example, at HSR layout, residents noted that at a local intersection, the absence of a traffic island made it nearly impossible for individuals to cross the road. As a result, the area suffered from numerous annual accidents involving pedestrians. To test out the community’s idea, the India team of WRI Ross Center installed a temporary traffic island in the intersection. The experiment worked as intended, significantly reducing vehicular speeds and permitting pedestrians to better cross the road. After the traffic island’s success, locals requested for the traffic island to be permanently installed.
“Solutions for a neighborhood should come from the residents themselves” says Sudeept Maiti, Senior Associate, “Our experience from HSR has shown that residents not only want to be engaged when it comes to transforming their community, but also are the best people to identify issues and offer solutions”.
Local suggestions for more sustainable neighborhoods
Shortly after the announcement of the NIP Challenge, Citizens for the City began receiving various proposals from residents. A total of 90 proposals were submitted that covered topics such as:
- Waste Management
With waste management posing a large concern in Bangalore, locals proposed a variety of ideas, from strengthening existing governance systems to be more accountable and efficient, to calling for self-sufficient waste management systems. In addition, participants brought up ideas for waste segregation, reducing the use of non-biodegradable products, and providing alternative models and solutions.
- Improving Mobility
Road safety is growing concern for many Indian cities. A significant amount of proposals focused on solutions for last mile connectivity and road safety in neighborhoods, pushing for cycle-friendly streets and a feeder bus system. Other ideas included design changes to traffic flow as well as various designs for bus stops and bicycle parking.
- Public Safety and Public Spaces
Several proposals addressed the accessibility challenges faced by women, children and the elderly. Solutions to safety concerns included implementing infrastructure improvements, such as better lighting, along with other changes to design. Residents also stressed the importance of quality public spaces that both encourage street activity and make neighborhoods vibrant.
All proposals are currently under review, and selected proposals will be invited to present to a panel of experts.