Tuesday, December 11, 2007

City under siege

Lush green parks, peaceful city, garden city, pensioners paradise, hill station of south if all these phrases reminds you of a city called ‘Bangalore’ aka ‘Bengaluru’ then you really ‘romancing’ history. The 740 sq km of the IT capital of India is crumbling under its own weight.

Rated as one of the fastest growing cities in Asia, as it surged to be back office for the world, very popularly christened as "Bangalored", did not realize the constrains of growth. Any company setting up its base in India 5 years ago would have had Bangalore on the top of their list, but today it is not a surprise if city does not feature in that list at all. The development of the city did not keep its date with the pace of growth. It could be true to cities like Delhi & Mumbai who have grappled with growth, but Bangalore was well positioned to learn from others mistakes and skip the learning curve.

The woes of the city are two folds - one the infrastructure (only roads are focused) and the other environmental. The city has over 28 lac vehicles on its roads, which is thrice the capacity it can take; it adds 1150 new vehicle on its roads every day accumulating to the chaos. 2-wheelers make up to 73% of Bangalore traffic and 4-wheelers/cars are 15%.

BMTC, the state managed city public transport system ply's over 4000 buses every day covering appx 4600 kms. BMTC carries less than 50% of the commuters, making public transport unreliable at all times. Added to the size of the traffic comes the condition of Bangalore roads; narrow lanes, bad quality of the roads, pot holes all over and encroachment has reduced the average speed of the moving traffic from 20 kmph to 13-15 kmph. Today it’s really acceptable to go late to office or an appointment and say "got stuck in a traffic jam" anyone will empathize with you.

Managing the pace of the city is one, but a political will to implement the much-needed option is another. It has taken the city to come close to its metro dream almost 23 years. Metro was first proposed in 1984 and no real effort was made to push it through. Unstable to visionless to no government, at the end metro project has seen it all. If one assumes that the metro will some how change the transport system and ease the city roads then here is a shocker - the metro will only cover 37 kms of distance carrying less than 2 lac commuters in the first phase.

Once you take a long breather visualizing what is installed for you on Bangalore roads in years to come, you would feel chocked with the air you are breathing. Bangalore vehicles consume over 5 lac metric tons of petrol, 7 lac metric tons of diesel every year and a large amount of adulterated fuel and kerosene. According to a report ‘the air pollution levels in the city are no better than an industrial age steel works town’. The RPM (respirable particulate matter) is three times more than the acceptable level.

Over 47,000 auto-rickshaws and an increasing number of cars are running on LPG. This shift in the type of fuel could bring in some relief to the air pollution levels in the city. But this is certainly not good in the long term as it contributes to the green-house gases leading to global warming.

The misery does not end here:
  1. City generates 2200 tons of garbage per day with no disposable mechanism

  2. Outdated building laws that does not address the current concern

  3. Construction industry taking advantage of outdated building laws

  4. Shortage of electricity and water

  5. Underground water tables drying up

  6. Water contamination due to poor drainage system

  7. Lesser green space with no check on the encroachments

  8. Lack of will to make hard decisions by any government

Bangalore is at a stage where all the issues are at an 'important & urgent' state; any action taken has to be a holistic approach with a long term solution. Cribbing about the problems is not good enough. We need to make it heard loud and clear and bring in suggestion and contribute to make things better for the city.

Some of the immediate actionables can be:

  1. Reward & penalization program for the road contractors who take up the road projects

  2. Stop commercialization of lakes and encroachment of forest and parks

  3. Relook at the allotment of land for trusts, societies and commercial buildings in the residential areas

  4. Revisit construction laws making it more environmental friendly like compulsory rain water harvesting and use of solar energy for all building plans both residential & commercial

  5. Stringent implementation of environmental laws for all large scale constructions

  6. Deployment of small size buses to increase road coverage of public transport system

  7. Change over to CNG and fix a deadline for a 100% implementation

As the citizens of Bangalore let’s voice our opinion and do what ever it takes to make this city better.

- The Bangalorean