Bengaluru is one of Asia's fastest growing cities. It is well known as India’s Silicon Valley - an IT outsourcing hub with offices of many of the world’s top tech and services companies. Before this rapid growth and urbanisation however, Bengaluru was popular as the garden city of India, thanks to its pleasant weather, numerous picturesque lakes, gardens and open spaces. Unfortunately, in the quest to becoming a global hub of talent and enterprise, Bengaluru has sacrificed its natural beauty and resources, which in turn is now hindering further progress.
Over time, Bengaluru’s population has ballooned to 12 million and is estimated to grow to 18 million by 2035. This influx of people is already putting a massive strain on resources and infrastructure. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, toxic lakes, diminishing groundwater reserves, green lands converted to urban landfills are just some of the ills plaguing this city.
The Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) recently published a report called Bengaluru Revised Masterplan 2031 which notes: 10 million Bengalureans lose 60 crore hours and Rs. 3700 crore a year to road congestion and traffic. It also notes Bengaluru currently generates 6233 tonnes of garbage per day, which in 14 years will reach 13,911 per day. A BBC report in 2018 following the Cape Town draught crisis, listed Bengaluru among 11 cities that might soon run out of water.
It would, therefore, be fair to state that water, waste treatment and traffic are Bengaluru’s top 3 issues. There is an urgent need to plan and implement solutions for the city’s sustainable growth.
Bengaluru’s infrastructure development has been struggling to keep up with its population growth rate. Slow moving traffic, traffic jams and one-way roads are the price the city’s residents pay every day for this growth. The lack of an efficient public transport network has contributed to the growing number of private vehicles on the roads and subsequently increased traffic and pollution. According to Bengaluru Traffic Police the city had 7.3 million vehicles in December 2017 which is a 74 per cent increase from 2012. The average speed of moving vehicles in Bengaluru dropped from 35 km per hour in 2005 to 9.2 km per hour in 2014. During peak hours this worsens to barely 3-4 km per hour.
The launch of the Namma Metro has greatly helped the cause. The Green Line (Yelachenahalli - Nagasandra) and Purple Line (Baiyyappanahalli - Mysore Road) cater to an average of 3.15 million people on a daily basis. The planned extensions of the existing Metro lines as well as the proposed addition of new lines will improve intracity connectivity.
`The proposed development of the 65 km Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) which will connect peripheral regions of Tumkur Road, Bellary Road, Hosur Road, Old Madras Road and Sarjapur Road. This will massively decongest the Outer Ring Road. Consistent efforts from the city’s administrators and better planning are the need of the hour to put Bengaluru on par with top global cities.
Bengaluru’s Garbage Issues
According to an IISc research report, only 30 per cent of the city’s 5000 tonnes of waste per day is directly collected by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), while the remaining 70 per cent is collected and transported through contractors; barely 10 per cent of the total waste is recycled. Inconsistencies in the waste collection and management process results in garbage being dumped in empty plots. This subsequently leads to land, groundwater as well as air pollution thus posing significant health risks.
For better waste management, developers are required to install sewage treatment plants to ensure waste is treated on-site, recyclables can be sent to respective processing units. This will reduce the burden on the BBMP who can concentrate on effectively collecting and disposing garbage from its wards.
The IISC report also suggests corrective measures such as construction and operation of properly planned sanitary landfill through public-private partnership (PPP) and, segregating and treating garbage on-site.
Bengaluru’s Water Issues
Bengaluru’s water problem is very curious. On one hand, it is geographically located in an advantageous location and receives an abundance of rainfall as it effectively has 3 rainy seasons in a year. On the other hand, residents buy water cans for drinking purposes and call water tankers for domestic use.
Bengaluru receives rainfall of 800 mm per year across the year which roughly translates to 2740 million litres per day or 109 litres per person per day. The crux of the problem is that Bengaluru doesn't have an active rainwater harvesting system because of which a lot of the water received by the city is wasted. A household uses 80 per cent of the water for washing, cleaning and in toilets which can be served by an efficient rainwater harvesting system.
Popularly known as the ‘city of lakes’, Bengaluru had 200-285 lakes in 1960. Today, most are in deteriorating states, with just a few able to sustain a burgeoning city. Many activists in the city have generated support to rejuvenate the city’s lakes through campaigns and awareness programmes. Civic authorities should work with the people to revive the lakes, recharge groundwater levels and implement reliable rainwater harvesting systems.
Whether a city prospers and sets itself up as a blueprint for a sustainable metropolis, or becomes an urban carcass is down to the people responsible for the city; this includes the civic administrators, planners and residents. Bengaluru was once a beloved garden city, preferred for its quality of life and environment. The Revised Masterplan 2031 offers a bold vision for restoring the city to its former glory. The onus is on everyone coming to work together for the greater good of a beloved city.