Massive heartbreak, controversy, sad head-nodding and sceptical questioning came at the heels of a report published by the Indian Institute of Science, which stated that Bengaluru was dying and would become uninhabitable by as early as 2020. While many could rightfully question the report, they could do so only about the time frame. For one only had to look around to know the the Garden City was choking.
The root of the problem is the same of that is plaguing all of India – overpopulation. With a booming technical and tertiary industry, affordable housing and progressive, modern lifestyle and culture, Bangalore attracted many a young men and women who decided to settle in the city.
Flash forward a few years later; it is these very millions who had dreamed of a good life that are contributing to the dream’s vaporization.
The population influx led to a rapid growth of the real estate industry, which came at a terrible cost. Seventy eight per cent of the green cover gave way to unplanned housing complexes with no proper drainage and garbage disposal systems, and construction rubble was dumped into lakes. Even today, sewage flows into these water bodies. Out of the once 126, less than 25 lakes survive now, and most of them are not fit to be called so. Then there is the traffic. It is complete nightmare to navigate the roads of the small city, and the air is majority pollution. The loss of green cover has only exaggerated the situation. The popular notion that the region is blessed with a mild, favourable climate has eroded among increasing temperatures and vanishing gardens.
But perhaps the reddest of hands are those of the authorities.
Rampant corruption and simple uncaring meant that the city was allowed to expand unchecked and in dangerous ways, and now threatens to topple over with the weight. Despite many alarm bells, it continues to be international bodies and NGOs that are working to remedy the situation, instead of the governmental agencies.
What about the people? Surely they see the city choking around them, and fear for their health and well-being if not for the city itself? The sad truth is that even after a year of the report’s publication, people merely shrug and go about their daily lives. And far more than any number of cars, construction of chopping of trees, it is this casual attitude that will be the death blow for the city.
If Bengaluru’s doomsday predictions are irreversible, then the entire planet might as well be declared dead right now. But it would only be when the people wake up and take action will the city stand a chance. For without agitation, without compromises, without demands of the fundamental right to live, Bengaluru will continue down the slippery slope. Public transport, restoration of green cover, better drainage systems, recycling and waste management and sustainable strategies are what is required, but the city cannot ask for it. The people will have to step up.