Bangalore must become an inclusive city

Leo Saldanha, Co-ordinator of Environment Support Group, shares his well-thought wish list for the new government, with Citizen Matters.

Leo Saldanha is a full-time Coordinator of Bangalore-based Environment Support Group. He is an expert in the areas of Environmental Law and Policy, Decentralisation, Urban Planning and a variety of Human Rights and Development-related issues, working across many sectors for over a decade. He is a keen campaigner on critical environmental and social justice issues and has guided several campaigns demanding evolution of progressive laws and effective action. He has supported various distressed communities to secure justice through public interest litigations and advocacy efforts. He has argued as party in person several public interest litigations, many of which have resulted in remarkable judgments.

Citizen Matters approached him with the question – What does he want the government to do in next five years. With his experience in the grass-root level developmental work, he has deep insights into the urban planning issues and governance policies, which he puts forth here.

– Citizen Matters team

  • Deep decentralisation of civic affairs must be undertaken sincerely and without any further delay. Ward Committees must be made fully functional and each ward must operate as though it were a little Council – the Corporator must be held accountable, and the bureaucracy actions should be transparent. All decisions must be publicly made and information made accessible suo moto.
  • Luring investment is not the same as keeping investors happy. Manufacturing sector needs encouragement on par with what IT/BT sector has been getting for far too long, and that is a sure way to spread jobs among skilled, unskilled, services and knowledge-based workers.
  • Bangalore needs to become an inclusive city, not only for those with money. Many recent incidents suggest that the real estate mafia is in cahoots with key bureaucrats (also influential ex-bureaucrats) and politicians and are forcing poor out of the city. This must end. The poor make the city, and the upper classes and the rich indulge because of their efforts.
  • Make housing affordable for all, especially the urban poor and lower income groups, who supply a host of services and labour, must be top priority. The high cost of rental accommodation must be addressed by massive infusion of low interest loan to remodeling old houses, or streets to increase their capacity to provide moderate and highly affordable housing. Currently, middle and lower middle classes are being pushed to the fringes, and the high cost of travel to work and school is eating into the small incomes of people.
  • Education has to be easily accessible and affordable for all. There is too much support for elite education and none at all for others. Make education attractive and free for poor communities. All government-run schools must be revamped a priori, complete with playground, library, laboratory, gardens, rain water harvesting, etc.
  • Primary health care centres must be easily accessible with remedies for most illnesses. Drugs must be made easily accessible for the poor under the BPL scheme. Make public hospitalisation attractive and affordable, and let not the poor suffer the high cost of medical treatment from hospitals.
  • Bus-based public transport and remodeling of existing rail networks – to make an inter-nodal network of options, including rickshaws, taxis, cycling and walking, must be a priority action to relieve traffic congestion. Taking the bike or car out should become unnecessary. Metros and high speed rail links (the constant demand of the elite) are too expensive, unaffordable to most, heavily burden the tax-payer and destroy the city form and structure.
  • Bangalore must be restored back to a walking and cycling city that it was till about two decades ago. For this, a massive tree planting drive is once more needed to bring back shade and birds on our streets. This will also help regulate temperature of buildings and keep the city cool, thus consuming less energy (fans) and water (needless AC use).
  • Make parks and open spaces accessible to all, and at most times of day and night. Bangalore residents have very low access to open spaces, and this is now turning into a major public health problem. Children should be able to access playgrounds with ease, safely and at most playing times, and not only when convenient to adults or the gardeners. Presently all parks are shut down between 10am and 4pm; this must end.
  • Rejuvenate all lakes as per the directions of the Karnataka High Court (in response to ESG PIL) and the guidelines of Justice N K Patil Committee to help rebuild biodiversity value of these wetlands, make them cultural and recreation spaces for all and recharge ground water aquifers. Bangalore can soon become the greenest, water-filled city if these directions are strictly followed.
  • Regulate ground water use strictly and make rain water harvesting/storage mandatory in large apartments, hotels and corporate offices compulsory. All middle and upper middle class houses must be retrofitted with rain water harvesting units of 5000 litres in a phased manner. Those polluting any water source must be criminally prosecuted. Unless these steps are taken immediately, Bangalore has no chance to survive. There is no water left in the Cauvery for Bangalore.
  • Implement strictly Karnataka High Court orders (in relation to ESG and other connected PILs) directing segregation of waste at source, composting locally, recycling and avoiding landfills altogether.
  • Invest in libraries and cultural centres in all wards. Create cultural zones in different areas of the city to encourage theatre, music (of all forms and sorts, not only classical or filmi), art, etc. This is what the "world class" standard Bangalore must aspire for; not the crass, consumer-centric, money-only-talks mall culture that is becoming all so pervasive.
  • Make all Bangalore houses and building solar energy capture devices. All dwellings must be encouraged to shift to solar water heating (boiling water for bath is a major consumer of energy). Make all street and public spaces lighting solar energy dependent, either through stand alone devices or roof-top solar ponds (schemes can be evolved to rent out roof-tops to solar energy companies to lay panels).
  • Immediately complete a rail-based commuter service between Mysore, Bangalore and Tumkur, and incentivise spread of populations to nine towns that are along this corridor. The model should enable living in any of these towns and ride a train to Bangalore for work. They have all the social, medical and educational infrastructure already.


  1. Dr. Rekha Jagannath says:

    Sorry, Bangalore is highly inclusive as of now. Actually for better governance the mega metropolitan city has to start selective exclusion.

  2. Bangalorian says:

    In addition to this we live in most polluted city, the pollution is no only due to vehicles, its coz of construction and other aspects. Every where we see a lot of sand and mud. Gov has to work on some creative solution to over come this.

  3. keerthikumar says:

    Bangalore become a dust city,BBMP has to take care of roads and made all seasoned roads.BMRCL and BDA must immediately complete the works and provide the the good service road for smooth moment of vehicles.All foot path must be user friendly.

  4. Tarun says:

    Looks like the writer is living in an ideal world. Nothing will change, nothing. All governments are same

  5. PRABHAKAR says:




  6. PRABHAKAR says:

    WHY should we bother about water ?

    there are more and more APPRATMENTS comming up with SWIMMPING POOLS AND FOUNTAINS .


  7. Balasubramanian A. says:

    The Author seems to be living in a make believe world. In fact we have almost all these in paper and law, but could not be fully implemented due to practical impediments and difficulties.
    Rain water Harvesting is a big joke. While threatening the citizens to implement RWH in their small houses, the Government is giving away all water storage areas of Lakes to big real estate developers for high rise buildings.

  8. G V Dasarathi says:

    That’s a nice wish list for Bangalore, encapsulating most of the problems and their solutions.

  9. Usha Srinath says:

    It is disappointing to see so many cynical responses to this article. If we do not take ownership, who can be the ‘they’ who will do it? Having grown up in the Bangalore of cycling, walking, parks, etc, I would certainly love to have them back. Ward committees, affordable housing, accessible education, regulation of ground water, waste management,lake rejunvenation, alternate energy, etc. are all valid concepts very relevant to the present times. If many voices speak for it, surely they will be heard? Sir, we have been harvesting rain water with much effect for over ten years much before it became mandatory in Bangalore city and I do not think the results have been foolish. Composting wet waste and carrying a shopping bag has reduced our garbage output by 70%. How many parks have we not seen that say ‘children not allowed’? Is it more important to have a manicured garden to gaze at than a play area for children (let me add that I have not had any play age children for some decades now). I really think participation rather than reaction is the answer.

  10. Usha Srinath says:

    Leo Saldanha’s views of the issues that plague today’s Bangalore are insightful. I think each issue merits a separate article. It is too much information to take in one reading.

  11. Deepa Mohan says:

    We need to put a stop to the burgeoning population and its pereceived “needs”…this is a political minefield, and no politician will ever advocate this. But it’s so clear…a finite space can only hold so much, yet we are stuffing more and more into it…

    That said…I’ve known Leo for a while now; a person who knows the ground reality, in a holistic way, far more than many others who take up conservationist cudgels. We cannot take up a “nothing will work” attitude; we cannot afford to do that. Let’s begin by taking the attitude that it CAN be done, and see how it goes, step by small step.

    Leo..more power to people like you.

  12. Muralidhar Rao says:

    Can’t have much of a quarrel with what the author has stated. However, expecting the government to discharge each of the functions by itself is where the problem lies. The days of the government in the role of provider of services and (manufacturer of goods), except perhaps in primary health, education, etc, are well and truly over. It has the more important role of the facilitator and regulator (where necessary, controller) to play, and when it chooses to remain/ become a player in addition, it invariably tends to distort the game to everyone’s harm. So, the civil society needs to demand that the government to limit itself where it doesn’t have a role, and be more effective where it has a significant role.

  13. Hari says:

    Not even a word about ‘Kannada’ and this is a wish-list about ‘Bangalore’ What a Joke!

  14. Juanma Salamanca says:

    Bangalore (and India) also need to modernize its immigration policies. As an foreigner doing an internship in Bangalore, I have to register myself in the feared Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO). It has been the most horrible and unpleasant experience in India. You just can’t sell Bangalore as a modern, open and tolerant city and at the same time have terrible third-world, totally deficient and even aggressive policies towards foreigners.

  15. Juanma Salamanca says:

    Bangalore (and India) also need to modernize its immigration policies. As an foreigner doing an internship in Bangalore, I have to register myself in the feared Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO). It has been the most horrible and unpleasant experience in India. You just can’t sell Bangalore as a modern, open and tolerant city and at the same time have terrible third-world, totally deficient and even aggressive policies towards foreigners.

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