Bengaluru: epitome of urban destruction

How did Bengaluru change over the years? What makes people predict that the city be dead in next five years? Some thoughts.

The growth and development of humanity in the modern age kickstarted from the time of Renaissance. The hub of all new thoughts and ideas was Europe and it was the Silicon Valley of sorts back in the days.

Colonial powers carried the ideas and the mindset with them as they traveled and took control of lands across the world. It intensified as we made rapid advances in technology in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

But something else also happened at that time. Humanity went completely out of sync with nature and we declared war on the ecosystem that had nurtured us from the time we were created. The consequences have been nothing less than disastrous and no place can exemplify this better than Bangalore.

My tryst with the city started way back in 1997 when I made an impromptu visit to meet an alumni from college to get ideas about the project I had to do in my final year of engineering. It was raining heavily that morning and after I reached my friend’s house and removed my shoes, I couldn’t keep my feet on the floor. It was that cold.

The dream city of yesteryears

I was in the city only for a day and the little bit I saw of the city was all lush green. One thing I remember distinctly is, M G Road, one of the busiest roads of Bangalore was a two-way road. Millennium kids would say, impossible. From then on, I have been in the city every year till I moved and stayed here for six years. Through those years, I have seen and felt the city starting to change and lose its pulse.

When I eventually moved out of the city, I had the inkling that the city was starting to become unlivable. Now I am back in the city after five years and what I foresaw was not wrong.

From my childhood, I had heard of people going on honeymoon trips to Ooty, Mysore and Bangalore. As I dug deeper and spoke to more people, I was blown away into bits. Everything about the past of Bangalore converged on to one fact in my mind. The peak summer temperature in Bangalore used to be 17 degree Celsius till the early 1980s and people used to sit in their porches and balconies hoping to get some sunlight. I will never be able to wrap my mind around this. A black sweater used to turn white with snow flakes after riding on a scooter for some distance. Bangalore used to be a no fan zone in those times.

All these stories come from people who used to work with the armed forces and were stationed in Bangalore during the 1970s. Now, the peak summer temperature is hovering around 40 degree Celsius. The fact that temperature has rocketed up by more than 20 degrees in two decades is astounding. But what is incredible to me is the reality that human beings can tamper with nature to such extremities.

IT boom adds chaos to the city

It all started in the early 1990s when the central government decided to open Software Technology Parks (STPIs) to promote India as the new Silicon Valley for software companies and sought Kerala as the destination. That plan did not materialize and the state government of Karnataka welcomed the initiative with open hands. Bangalore being the capital city got chosen by default. This is how the whole saga of mindless destruction of the city began.

When I came to Bangalore to meet my alumni in 1997, his work place was a house that was used as office space. That is how it started. IT companies started moving in and started to function out of any available buildings and real estate went into overdrive. The vast swathe of agricultural land in the south part of Bangalore was the prime target. It swung the state government machinery into frenzy as well to provide roads, water, electricity and other amenities to the new office spaces.

The primary problem of Bangalore is that from a calm and peaceful city for honeymooners, it has become a totally unplanned city of chaos in such a short period of time. People from all over India have moved into the city bringing with them their unique culture and way of living and the city has had to imbibe all of it in such a short span of time.

And the result? Booming business, from food to attire to everything else to cater to all cultures, adding more chaos to the situation and piling on more pressure on the city’s resources. Land and trees had to go to make way for roads and when roads couldn’t manage traffic any more, flyovers had to be built. Now that even flyovers are not able to manage the ever burgeoning traffic, metro rail is getting built. That in a way has been the final nail in the coffin. Whatever greenery was remaining on M G road had to be cleared for the metro. As the work keeps expanding to connect all corners of the city as per plan, it will devour most of the feeble natural resources the city has left in its belly.

Increasing exodus and realty prices

There are two more significant issues. The cost of land has shot up so astronomically, most local residents of Bangalore have chosen to sell off their properties and move out of the city. Migrant people will never have the love or respect for a place that its local residents will have and I believe this is a major factor in the wanton destruction of the city.

The other one is the exodus of fresh graduates who finish college and move to Bangalore every year. Government has sold education to the private sector and neither the government nor the private sector is able to keep up with the increasing demand for jobs with each passing year. Bangalore has become the de facto place to hunt for jobs for all graduates now and every year the city is getting stretched more at its seams.

Bangalore is in the rush to adopt two issues that are plaguing the major cities of India. Water and garbage and issues with both are in direct correlation to the fact that Bangalore has become an unplanned city. When I say water, it is not just access to clean drinking water. Most of the lakes Bangalore used to be proud of till two decades back have disappeared.

I remember one particular bout of rain on a day in 2004 when I was in office. The city was clogged everywhere. Why? The water bodies to where the water could have drained were all gone. There was no earth left to absorb water. Concrete and tar do not absorb water. Where else will the water go? This is what caused the flood in Chennai last year. The memorable part was when the lakes surrounding the office premise of Infosys overflowed and water was flowing down the stairs of the building like waterfalls.

From garden city to garbage city

The amount of garbage humanity produces in a single day is mind boggling. Add to it the fact that a lot of the garbage is not biodegradable which means nature cannot or will take considerable time to recycle them.

Near the banks of the lake where I go for my morning walk now I see waste bags floating around with foul smell emanating from them. I don’t know how much time is left before the fishes and birds disappear from the lake. People throw their garbage openly near the pavements on streets and everything lies scattered for the corporation employees to come and clean up the mess every morning.

People don’t even stop to think for a moment that the city is being maintained with the same money they are paying as taxes. But then what happens to all the garbage? It gets dumped on the outskirts or some other parts of the city, thereby spreading the dangerous affliction of the city and polluting those areas as well.

Time has proved my decision to not buy an apartment in Bengaluru as correct. Recent reports suggest that this place is hurtling towards the notoriety of becoming the first dead Indian city in the next five years. I am having to cover myself up completely including my face every time I step out now to get some respite from dust and pollution.

Repercussions of destroying nature is not far away. Unless the government takes firm measures to offload business to other places and water down Bangalore’s reputation as job seeker’s paradise, the situation will only keep deteriorating. Any further inaction and they can get ready to rule the first dead city of the country.

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