By Anupam Manur
An expert committee to forecast risks in the short and long run and suggest measures to manage it.
Delhi’s alarming pollution levels and the ensuing chaos in attempting to mitigate the problem has lessons for all the other big cities in India. That Delhi waited for this long and for the problem to gain such magnitude before attempting a solution is by itself a telling sign of the ineptitude of our state government machinery.
Going by the present growth trajectory, it is not hard to forecast that Mumbai, Bangalore and few other cities will face the same problems that Delhi is presently facing in a few years time. Bangalore is about 5-8 years behind Delhi on all the negative signs: the rate of vehicular growth, population growth, reduction in green spaces, bad urban planning, etc.
Further, urban planning in Bangalore is known to have a terrible record with regard to the ability to foresee problems in the future and taking evasive actions. Officials in Bangalore have typically waited for the problem to be deep set before deciding that something must be done, after which it takes a few years to come up with a viable solution. The extremely slow pace of implementation of the solution implies that the problem would have compounded many times over by the time the solution is in place. The Bangalore Metro is a classic example of this. It is now slated to be completed only by 2032, by which time Bangalore’s population and traffic woes would have increased to such an extent that the Metro will be completely inadequate in addressing the issue. Though the problems of garbage disposal and water management has already reached a critical point, the administrators are just beginning to become cognizant of the problem. Many other issues are already imploding, which still hasn’t appeared on the administrators’ radar.
The solution to this is to set up an independent set of experts in risk management. Either the central government or the state government should appoint a ministry of risk management, whose task it would be to foresee possible threats and risk to the quality of life in Indian cities and suggest immediate mitigating and evasive actions. The exact scope and structure can be ironed out later, but the main idea is to attempt being ahead of the problem.
The scope for such a committee/ministry could be huge. It can cover issues such as environment (pollution, disappearance of lakes, green cover, etc), water shortage, contingency plans for natural and man-made disasters, etc in the long run and in the short run it could focus on the immediate issues that threatens the quality of life, such as power shortage, traffic problems, housing, garbage clearance, etc.
Corporations succeed when they are able to manage their potential risks and convert them into opportunities. It is time that Indian cities invested in risk managements as well.
Anupam Manur is a Policy Analyst at Takshashila Institution and tweets @anupammanur