Here’s what we can do to save the dying city of Bengaluru
The recent showers and the pleasant mornings that follow, drew me out of my cocooned study, as I put on my walking shoes and set out on an aimless stroll. Google Maps show four lakes a stone’s throw away from my apartment. (The water tanker perpetually parked in front of the small building can often be misleading.)
My feet carried me to the Kasavanahalli Lake, situated by the Haralur Road, off Sarjapura Road. I cursed my decision to venture out after seeing the disheartening sight. The dirty, stagnant waters of the lake are surrounded on all sides by monstrous under-construction buildings. The green cover around the lake, including ecologically sensitive wetlands, has been sinking rapidly. Huge piles of construction debris had been abandoned on the sides of the lake. The gushing sewage water into the lake makes it a perfect breeding ground for diseases.
The sight was accompanied by the sounds of jarring construction noises and the nauseating stench of rotting waste.
While I busied myself clicking photographs of the lake, I saw a group of about 10 enthusiastic youngsters with spades in hand, planting saplings and trying to fight back. While their effort may seem too small to undo the massive losses this lake has suffered, it also raised some hope in me.
This, like many other lakes in Bengaluru, is on the brink of sure death. It might sound a little surprising to many, but Bengaluru was once home to 2,000 lakes. Today, only 60 of them remain.
Once lush green with old trees and gardens, Bengaluru is now fighting a losing battle. While the city has made an economic leap over the past two-and-a-half decades, the ecological fallout is of probably much greater proportions.
Waste management too has been a perpetual problem in Bengaluru. It went beyond proportions and made it big in the media when in July 2012, BBMP was left with no options to dump the 3000 to 4000 tons of waste the city produced every day. The move followed when the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board closed the Mavillipura landfill citing environmental and public health hazards.
And how can we forget the Mandur landfill crisis when villagers living near the garbage dump yards of Mandur complained that their water was not potable, vegetables were not edible, houses were not livable, and the air not breathable.
The villagers had to fight for long before Bangaloreans even took heed of the situation and acknowledged the cost that human lives have to pay to maintain their pompous show. “Annadhathanige kasa daana beda (don’t feed garbage to the one who gives you rice),” read one of the protest placards.
While the recent ban on plastic bags is a welcome move, the BBMP failed several times before it could make waste segregation a reality, which even today remains unimplemented in several areas, including my own street. And as a recent Bangalore Mirror report suggests, the city is sitting on another time bomb made of its own garbage, waiting to explode.
The state of lakes and waste management are merely two chapters in Bengaluru’s tragic tale.
Pick any other factor that makes a city sustainable – air pollution level, groundwater level, green cover, traffic management, levels of sanitation, equality of income, and level of crime – the parameters that measure these factors are all alarming and only becoming worse.
All these indicate how inconsiderate we have become towards our own habitat and surroundings. As a favourite wildlife filmmaker Mike Pandey recently told us in an interview, “We call the nature our mother. Is this how we treat our mother?”
Such is the level to which our city has been exploited that Prof T V Ramachandra’s recently published report suggests that Bengaluru will become a dead city in 5 years. The scientist who till date preferred minding his own business working tirelessly with the Energy and Wetlands Research Group in Indian Institute of Science (IISC) was forced to come out and raise an alarm because we – all of us — have reached a do or die situation.
Bengaluru is a classic example of how urbanisation can fail. Although many of us can blame the migrant influx for the situation the city finds itself in, suggests that migration of a working class into a city generally helps it in many ways. While the labour class helps build and run a city, the middle class of the working sector pay taxes and help a city prosper. If there is anything the city has to blame, it is bad governance and apathetic citizenry. And in my opinion, it is not the time to blame, but act!
Mahatma Gandhi had said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” We at SocialStory are running a month-long campaign to bring out the issues with the city and help conduct discussions and debates on the subject out in the open.
Over the next month, we will write about the problem, but also tell tales and share perspectives of those who have solutions to offer. We will do our fair share of investigative journalism, but expect you to share your bit as well.
Bring out those mobile phones and laptops and share with us the problems you see and start participating with those who are working for change. Because when citizens wake up, governments automatically do.