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Bengaluru: With Karnataka’s high-profile global investment summit scheduled for this week, do investors worry about Bengaluru’s rickety infrastructure?

Mike Holland, CEO of Embassy Office Parks seems to think so. His company has a business park portfolio with some of the biggest technology companies in its tenant list, including IBM, Flipkart and Microsoft, among others.

“If corporates find a particular location is inefficient for doing business, they will go ahead and search for other locations," he said at a CII conference on 16 December.

Mike Holland has started walking to his office in the heart of Bengaluru’s IT corridor because, he says “I can walk faster than I can drive". His company has committed 50 crore if the government steps in to build a flyover that will allow techies working in one of its parks to drive directly to the campus, after several of his technology tenants reportedly expressed reservations about renewing their leases in the vicinity, citing traffic snarls.

Bengaluru, the fastest growing urban district in India, is crying out for an infrastructure overhaul. The city has added six times more people than neighbouring Chennai in the last decade. But, as a government panel’s recent study report noted, the city’s urban infrastructure has not been able to keep pace with that growth.

Perhaps the best symbol for Bengaluru’s neglected urban infrastructure is an eight-lane flyover project meant to connect West Bengaluru to the rest of the city. It has been in the making for the last eight years, and, even as the cost escalated from 115 crore to 226 crore, all that has been made for the Okalipuram flyover is just two pillars—that too half built.

This, despite the traffic police estimates saying Bengaluru roads are currently operating at two times their capacity and a study group (Consortium of Traffic Engineers and Safety Trainers) saying the speed of an average vehicle on the roads dropped from 35 km/hr to 20 km/hr to 9.2 km/hr from 2005 to 2010 to 2014, all of which clearly indicates that the city is gridlocked.

The city is also struggling to get adequate supplies of power and water, two factors anyone looking to invest in the state cannot overlook.

Power has become a cause of worry for large and small companies in Bengaluru alike. The city has been facing long power outages since August as the hydel-power dependent state’s power generation hit a decade low last year, thanks to the poor monsoon. The government has asked industries to shut down at least once a week, in a staggered manner, Mint reported on 20 October.

The state’s water reservoirs are depleted since last July as the state in 2015 witnessed, in chief minister Siddaramaiah’s words, the worst drought in 44 years. Catchment areas of rivers like Cauvery have gone dry. Cauvery is the major source of water for Bengaluru, which is 3,000 feet above sea level.

The government has already hiked tariffs for both power and water, despite resistance from the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Water charges will be doubled from next month onwards for both domestic and industrial users in Bengaluru. Power utilities have demanded an average increase of 1.02 per unit, the sharpest hike in many years.

This is beside the shrinking lake beds and fast depleting ground water levels, raising alarm about the levels of pollution in the city.

Solving infrastructure woes such as deploying a cutting-edge traffic management system could be done in even 48 hours, says Ashwin Mahesh, chief executive of social technology firm Mapunity Information Systems and a member of Bangalore’s city planning task force.

With ‘Invest Karnataka’, the government seems to have noticed the lack of political urgency that Mahesh is referring to. In last week alone, three state ministers held a meeting with the heads of corporates in the city’s IT corridor, allocated 35 crore to improve the corridor area and set up a committee to fast resolve other infrastructure projects caught in a deadlock.

About 25 city-centric projects will be showcased in the investment summit to be developed in a public-private-partnership mode, said infrastructure minister Roshan Baig on Monday. These projects pertains to strengthen the city’s infrastructure, and includes building 40 skywalks to decongest traffic and reconstructing at least a dozen heavily congested street markets and state government establishments in prime locations, he said.

“Who’s going to come forward and do this is still a question. But the very fact that they are putting out ideas these kind of ideas and asking people to think about it is a start, it is a shift from a conventional sector-wise thinking," said V. Ravichandar, chairman of Feedback Consulting and a member the Bangalore Agenda Task Force, a group that works with citizens, firms and administrative agencies to address civic issues in Bengaluru.

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