Dear city leaders: something is rotting in the city of Bengaluru

Potholed roads, miserable traffic, stinking garbage all around, scares of epidemics, lakes spewing toxic foam. What more do we need? Request to all politicians: work with us or go hibernate.

Last week, former Deputy CM and opposition leader KS Eshwarappa said Chief Minister Siddaramiah’s statements have hurt the sentiments of a community.

Dear Mr Eshwarappa, you are right about sentiments hurt, but it’s not related to food or culture.

Our sentiments are boiling – over the craters on the road that threaten our lives every single day, over the water stagnating in drains that’s creating colonies of dengue everyday, over the unbelievable mess of traffic that keeps us all immobile on the roads for several hours in a day, over the highly polluted air that never lets us breathe easy, over the garbage spilling over on the roads that just does not seem to have a solution despite all the support from citizens, over lakes that are suffocating and foaming over on the already pathetic roads, over the endless SEZs and apartments that are coming up without any planning for supporting infrastructure, over the water tanker mafia that holds us to ransom while govt happily supports the cause…the list is really endless.

A request to all politicians: please work with us on at least one issue if you can. Else please go hibernate somewhere.

Count thine blessings, not potholes

A pothole count done by Major Roads Infrastructure department in September 2015 found 2,492 potholes in the city. The rest are as they say, illegal potholes.

Asphalting doesn’t last beyond the first showers of the season. There is rarely any preparation for monsoons. Even in rare cases where BBMP desilts drains, the silt and muck is left by the side, which gets washed right back in when it rains.

Though there are departments meant for various types of roads, and though BBMP bills crores of rupees for pothole filling, the potholes always return. Every now and then, some leader reiterates the epic dream of making Bengaluru a Singapore.

  • No of potholes found by BBMP: 2,492

  • Budget for roads announced in May: Rs 1,000 crore

  • Nagarothana Scheme for road widening projects and building underpasses and overbridges: Rs 1,810 crore

When a two-wheeler pillion rider died this September, the government “promised the citizens to rid the City of potholes” by end of October (2015 we presume) and make the roads motorable soon.

Traffic police forced to find temporary solutions to potholes. Pic: Meera K

Traffic: Crawling into more misery

The latest joke is that one can accomplish courtship and marriage while stuck in a Bangalore traffic jam. Not too far from reality we would say. Vehicles virtually crawl on roads during peak hours—travelling a distance of 17 kms from one end of the city to another can take two hours during peak hours of a normal day, and more than three hours on a rainy evening! A short distance of 3 km in areas like Whitefield or ORR can take upto an hour or more. Even children are not spared, with school buses taking hours to ferry our kids back home. As someone rightly said, the unit of distance here in hours.

Is there any respite in sight? Not very hopeful considering that new SEZs and apartment complexes are being added to the melee everyday.

  • Hours spent by an average citizen each year: 240 hours. Peak hour speed: 15 km/hr 

  • BMTC operates 6,808 buses, serves less than half the population. The number of schedules, effective km covered, fleet and vehicle utilisation has gone down in the last 2-3 years. BMTC planned to buy 810 in 2014, JNNURM had sanctioned but state delayed in submitting compliance reports.

  • Approximate number of trucks passing through the city every day: 5,000. Status of Peripheral Ring Road that could ease the problem: land acquisition in doldrums

  • Namma Metro: Phase 1’s April 2016 deadline slips. Project end likely to go beyond 2032.

Vehicular traffic has no end, over and under the flyovers, day and night. Pic: Shilpi Sahu

Garbage in – Garbage out

Every few months, villages and towns like Mandur, Mavalli or Doddaballarpur erupt in protest against the onslaught on their air, water and land. The powers that be in Bangalore seem to have much in common with the average citizen’s civic sense. Out of sight, out of mind!

The Garbage PIlL has been dragging on for years, but the stale script of inefficiency from the BBMP always remains the same. Biomethanisation plants have been commissioned but few have seen the light of day. Same is the case with Dry Waste Centres that were supposed to be setup in each ward. Meanwhile, there are talks of waste to energy plants that promise to make our garbage disappear.

The new minister whose portfolio of “Bangalore development” is a hyped up version of “Bangalore-in charge” has promptly decided to go to Europe to study garbage management. If he was listening to citizens who are working on the ground, this trip would be needless. He just has to spend some time in apartments (1 Lakh and counting), layouts and even villages like Seegehalli and Bevinamara, that are practising segregation and sustainable waste management.

Meanwhile the garbage piles grow higher.

“And you thought Koramangala was a posh place. Eh?” Pic: Meera K

Water and sewage: Hell is here

For most Bengalureans, the first thing to enquire while renting or buying houses is, “Is there Cauvery water?”. A good part of the city lives by the bounty from this river- from self wash to vehicle wash.

For the not-so-fortunate who live in areas where water runs shy at 1300 feet, there are tankers. In a city where mammoth apartment structures spring up to life almost overnight, these vehicles have become as vital as ambulances.

Posh, upscale communities are sold to the unsuspecting or ignorant buyer with the seal of government approval. The hard truth however is that the promised dream life comes to a grinding halt when tankers fail to deliver. The cartels that run these use their power well, flexing their muscles at will for unreasonable hikes and loans.

And what can citizens do when their elected representatives fault them for staying in water scarce areas? This situation can be rectified only if government takes up third party mediation in water tanker supply. But given the profitable equations, who wants to?

You may be lucky to get water in your taps after paying Rs 700 for a tanker. But the state has no plans to regulate ‘private’ water tankers. There is no predicting the upper limit for prices given the demand is so high. What’s more, there is no way to ensure the water is potable or free of e-coli. We are just living on the edge.

  • Cost per litre of Cauvery water for individual house owners: Rs 11-45/ 1000 litres.

  • Average cost per litre of water in slums: Rs 10 for 5 litres. (Rs 200/ 1000 litre)

  • Cost of water in apartments where there is no Cauvery water supply: Rs 100 / 1000 litres.

  • 52% of the borewell water and 59% of tap-water in Bangalore is not potable and carries threat of E.coli infections.  

  • Estimate of number of people to be affected by water crisis: 22 lakhs.  Do we evacuate from Bangalore?

The slum dweller, the invisible fringe worker of the city is the one who seems to get the worst deal here.

Who is scared of Dengue?

As the clogged drains breed their deadly cargo, the incidence of Typhoid, Dengue and Chikungunya continue unabatedly.  With the rains, and resultant garbage and sewage pools all over the city, children in particular are affected by viral and bacterial infections.

The government continues to play ostrich. Never mind that you personally know a dozen people who have suffered from Dengue and perhaps even those who have lost their lives. All is well, says the minister. Who knows? Maybe the vector population responds to wishful thinking.

Whither Swaccha Bharath, Bengaluru continues to lack basic amenities.  

  • Official number of toilets in Bengaluru: 504. Requirement: 4,000. Budget for upkeep of toilets: Rs 44.12 lakh.

  • 46 e-Toilets are defunct after BBMP defaults on payment.

Lakes bubble over with our sins

One massive lake that carried the aspirations of the several villages situated on its banks, providing livelihood, health, security and prosperity to its residents has now been reduced to a foaming, stinking cesspool that suffocates the right to life of the same patrons. The foam started way back in the nineties on a small scale and despite winning a PIL in 1999 and securing a court order listing remedial action, nothing has happened at this lake other than political posturing.

Citizens have have been petitioning the state to fix the problem once and for all. They have raised it with the Lokayukta and are rallying behind the villagers who are struggling with the stench, the foam, and a vicious outbreak of vector-borne diseases.

What is the state doing, really?

  • Bellandur sewage estimate: 40% of Bengaluru’s entire sewage – 400-500 Million Litres per Day (MLD). Capacity of BWSSB sewage treatment plants located at Bellandur: 248 MLD. Effectiveness of the STPs: limited.

  • Though the BWSSB claims that the city has well-connected sewage network, reality is that the erstwhile 110 villages area don’t have sewage connection yet.

Power hunger in the IT capital

Though BESCOM announced three to four hours of load shedding in Bangalore, many neighborhoods are experiencing cuts for five to six hours or more. In addition to scheduled load shedding, there are unscheduled outages for hours. Unscheduled cuts range from one hour to 10 hours!

The worst-hit are the people whose means of livelihood does not fall under the big corporate umbrella. People working in Small Scale Industries such as loom workers, farmers, small business establishments etc have to find alternate and often ungainful employment as the power situation does not allow them to thrive. Many industries are considering shutting down.

On the other hand, there are huge apartment complexes and SEZs who have found an uncomfortable balance, surviving on backup power burning up lakhs of litres of fossil fuel.

Let us hope the rains ease the problem, because the authorities have thrown up their hands to the heavens.

Whither planning, whither development

Eight years after BMP became ‘Bruhat’, there is no scope for a ‘bruhat’ vision. Peripheral areas remain neglected with no underground drainage or water supply in place.

There are no updates on the Metropolitan Planning Committee after it was setup. Meanwhile BDA has embarked on its next master plan. A BBMP Restructuring Committee was setup with great fanfare and the team went about their job with impressive commitment. But their July 2015 report was only used as an excuse by the state to try their luck in postponing city elections. Last heard, the committee term extended till January. 

Resorting to politics

Every elected representative continues blaming the opposing party. The corporator can’t deliver because BBMP is controlled by a different party. Or MLA can’t do anything because the state is not led by his party. Or the corporator is from a different party. How come we ordinary citizens manage to do much more than any of them by dint of sheer willpower?

Corporators whom we have elected in good faith in September soon got busy being ferried from resort to resort where intense trading seems to have happened to get the support of independents. While one party won the majority of wards, another one staked claim with votes from MLAs, MPs and all possible political connections, to rule the city and landed the Mayor position.

Mayor election happened – fine. But is the council working? There have been two council meetings held after elections, with no significant development to show for it. No resolutions were passed. Nobody voted on anything. Is this how taxpayers’ money is to be utilised?

Will the council get to work in the near future? Nope, because no one is sure whether the current mayor will continue to rule the full term. The judgment of the court case filed by BJP ex-corporators against voting rights for nominated members, MLAs and MPs is pending, the judge who handled the case has been transferred to Hubli-Dharwad bench, so no one knows when the judgment will be pronounced.

How one wishes for a ‘right to recall’!


Phew. Now that we got it out of our system, our blood pressure is down a bit. Till tomorrow then.


  1. Vishwas says:

    Dear authors, your article resonates well with every wretched resident of Bangalore. This is a great summary of the major issues that dog Bangalore. However we need to also keep reiterating individual ideas in separate articles and across more mediums and languages. The English speaking urban middle-class are most comfortable in complaining on Citizen Matters, or starting signature campaigns or making groups to share frothing lake videos on Facebook, but we are clueless about how to take it the next step. Please help in this regard. Pick a topic and hammer away. For example Garbage – there is nothing to waste in garbage when we segregate – it is full of recyclable materials, energy and manure.Waste segregation is practiced actively by the larger apartments in the Sarjapur road/Bellandur area. But we hear nothing about this in the local media, and in spreading these ideas across a wider audience. The other major issue is of the hypocrisy that this class of people have – we want our clean shiny cars (without worrying about how it gets clean), we want to wear nice clothes (and show them off on Facebook), maintain large apartments (without worrying about where the sewage goes) and at the same we complain on Facebook about the frothing Bellandur lake. We have to realise that we are part of the problem, not just our apathetic (or hapless) politicians.

  2. Shilpi Sahu says:

    Mr Vishwas, Did you by any chance realize that are you preaching to the choir? 😀

  3. William says:

    Thank you for this timely and informative article…

  4. Concerned says:

    Thank you for sharing. Very succinctly captured.

  5. srikanth says:

    Shame that a society in the year 2015 have to live like this.
    The ONLY solution is giving everything to Private (Garbage Collection, Road Building & Maintenance, Public Transportation). Have 3-4 private companies for each of these and have another 3-4 private companies that are responsible for quality assessment. Benchmark and rate/rank these companies over their performance. If a private company is not performing well, then give the contract to the one that is performing well (Rank 1).
    The issues of Garbage Collection, Public Transportation and Road Building/Maintenance is NOT Rocket science in the 21st century.

    Why do our politicians waste time on Naming roads and airports on kempegowda, or gandhi. There is a city in shambles here. These are shameless administrators

  6. Subramanian Sankaran says:

    This report is gut wrenching in placing the facts without any dilution or posturing and a huge relief from the lip service that mainstream media pays to such hard core issues. Kudos to the writers. Most of us seem to be quite comfortable with the way things are judging by the no of new commercial and residential colonies that continue to grow in the outskirts of the city. Issues of Water, electricity, sewage, garbage, traffic, pollution, crime, etc seem to be happening in another world as we are becoming adept in getting things home delivered with new apps and restrict our movements to absolute necessities. We ignore what happens in our immediate neighborhood and refuse to come out on occasions where a show of strength and unity can force the authorities to act. Signing petitions is far more easier and guilt free. Our “I, me, mine” mindset is reflected in our elected reps. The story is going to get worse if our “I am here only for a short while OR I pay my taxes and live a honest life so why should I do anything more” attitude continues unchanged. My blood pressure too is back to normal now!

  7. N V Krishnakumar says:

    Vow !!! What an elitist rant ??? It’s become a fashion of elitists and the learned to bash politicians not knowing most solution lie within them.

    Here are the solutions to your rant ….

    – Decongest the City (25% of the problem solved)
    – Practice the art of “community living” (25% of the problem solved)
    – Follow the law (25% of the problem solved)
    – Increase revenues to the municipal bodies (25% of the problem solved)

    How to decongest the City?
    – Infosys is building a facility in Devanahalli. Ask them to build it in Bidar.
    – Ask corporate honchos to move half their facilities in Bengaluru to move to Haveri, Bijapur, Raichur and Kolar so rest of Karnataka too can develop.
    – I am sure you can do neither, so rant on the politicians – Ask them to move to Vikas Soudha in Belgaum.

    How to practice the art of “Community Living”?
    – Ask your elite and rich friends to send their children to school by public transport
    – Ask your apt friends to conserve water, electricity and recycle garbage.
    – Ask your IT-BT morons who commute from Malleswaram to Whitefield and from HSR-Layout or JP Nagar to Manyata tech park to sell their ancestor property and move closer to their work place.

    How to follow the Law?
    – Ask your rich friends to not give their underage teenagers two wheelers and four wheelers
    – Follow some basic traffic rules while driving
    – Corporates and others to pay taxes

    How to increase revenues to municipal bodies?
    – Ask your friends in high rise and villas to voluntarily convert to capital value property tax system.
    – When Central Government imposes an education / garbage Cess – RANT & PROTEST. They must come to the municipalities.
    – Ask your corporate honchos and celebrities who put up flexes to pay them to pay up before doing so.

    If any of these servile intellectuals and retired bureaucrats tells you that signal free corridors/ward committees/regulators are the solution – Don’t be a FOOL to believe them. They are part of the corrupt nexus.

    GOOD LUCK in your endeavours in solving the problems of City !!!!!!!

  8. srikanth says:

    The 3 biggest problems of Blore that make it uninhabitable are: Open Garbage, Very bad Roads & Very bad public transportation leading to high density of private traffic

    There are simple solutions to each of these
    a) Give the whole issue of Garbage collection to recycling to global private companies
    They have done it outside 2-3 decades ago, so no need to reinvent.

    b) Advertize and ask people how and where to keep Garbage so the collection companies takes it daily. Maybe green bags for recyclable. Black bags for other waste
    Also, Warn people about hefty fines (500rs?) for not conforming or throwing garbage outside

    c) Put CCTV cameras in empty sites where people throw garbage. Make local BBMP officers to enforce fines on public violating rules by throwing garbage outside
    2) Roads
    Solution is private companies again. Give this to at least 3 companies and monitoring of quality to 3 other companies. Rank them and incentivize with more contracts for the best

    3) Transportation
    a) Get private companies to introduce buses and minibuses(force tempo and tata winger). BMTC should not be a monopoly. Private competition will help better services.
    Ban BIG buses on 1-laned roads. This will insure speed on 1 laned roads is reasonable and not the current 5-10kmph!

    b) Put hefty congestion tax for people taking out private vehicle on ALL central zones.

    Lack of funds:
    Any shortfall in funds can be obtained by slightly taxing private companies. Pvt companies will pay as long as they see the results and there is no money diverted for corruption

  9. Prashant katti says:

    i completely agree with the solutions provided by N V Krishnakumar. We need to think beyond bengaluru for setting up of companies. That would even help infrastructure of other cities of karnataka and now situation of karnataka is like , karnataka -(minus) bangalore = nothing.. 🙁

  10. Sriram Narayanaswamy says:

    Unfortunately the solutions provided by N V Krishnakumar are mostly another preachy kind of impractical solutions. What is needed is simple enforceable steps with maximum bang for the buck – the genuine institution of ward committees and placing(supervision of) ward budgets in their hands, for example.

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