The rule of thumb in Bengaluru these days is very simple. “Reach home before it starts to rain.” Yesterday it rained for about 1 hour in the evening. And people were stuck on the road for 3-4 hours before they could reach their homes. Have you ever wondered why Bengaluru, a city that is located at a whopping high altitude of 3000 feet above the sea level always ends up facing flash floods and water logging every time it rains? Before you dictate terms on this and say even Mumbai and Chennai flood when it rains heavily, you have to keep in mind the fact that those two cities apart from being poorly planned are located at the coastal belts and are in almost 0-10 feet above sea level, with a flat terrain. But the story of Bengaluru is different. The city which was called the “City of Lakes” and the fate of once the green capital of the country is now heart-wrenching.
Let us dig a bit of mud and stale garbage out of the Bengaluru’s problems and see the underlying causes that have put the city into this grave state. Population overgrowth, Boom! We have our first reason. Population overgrowth is to be considered as one of the main reasons for the condition of the city. All thanks to “ The Silicon Valley” of India. IT sector & real estate growth associated with the cities popularity have been the direct causes of the flaws that we see today. There’s been 525% growth in the built-up area in the last 40 years corresponding to a 78% decline in vegetation. The real Estate Mafia and the greed to become rich have directly hit and consumed the majority of water bodies in the city. “The Lake City”, Bengaluru had nearly 260 lakes in the 1960s which is now reduced to 25! And those 25 are being highly contaminated. Recently, 100s of fishes died in Ulsooru lake. The other lakes that are present are directly fed with toxic industrial waste, household waste and the resulting anaerobic condition have given the world probably its first “Lake that catches fire!” , The Bellandur Lake.
Now coming down to the next big problem of the city, the Traffic on roads is unbearable. A minimum of 2 hours is required to reach offices which are 10-15 kilometres away. And to add more salt to the already existing wound Bengaluru’s traffic-choked roads are seeing an addition of roughly 5 lakh vehicles each financial year, with the total number of vehicles in Bengaluru breaching the 60-lakh mark last year. By February 2016, the number of ‘non-transport’ vehicles such as two-wheelers and cars in the city had reached 54.67 lakh. According to Transport Department data, two-wheelers continue to dominate the city’s roads (over 41.86 lakh), followed by cars (11.8 lakh). The number of transport vehicles stands at over 5.91 lakh.
The city has seen a steady increase in the number of vehicles being registered — from 41.56 lakh in March 2012 to 55.59 lakh in March 2015, and now over 60 lakh by February 2016.
Probably when we go deeper and see the reason on waterlogging and flash floods the answer lies in the “State of an art!!” waste management system that the city possesses. Bengaluru generates 4000 tons of waste a day, but hardly any care is taken to dispose of it in right way. Sadly the corrupt and inefficient government & Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) doesn’t care. The city has its waste disposal problems increasing every day as more residents pile in and create more waste. A study suggests that, echoing urban patterns around the world, Bangalore’s population nearly doubled from 5.7 million in 2001 to 10.5 million today. An estimated number of more than 2 million IT professionals are expected to live here by the end of 2020. The natural green covering that the city had is now being replaced by Concrete and Tarmac.
This gives in to the next problem of the city. The layers of concrete and tarmac that have crept out across the city stop any water from seeping into the ground. Bangalore, once famous for its hundreds of lakes, now has only 25. The rest have been filled and paved over. Of the 25 remaining, more than half are contaminated with sewage. Not only has the municipal water system been slow to branch out, it also leaks like cheesecloth. In the established neighbourhoods that enjoy the relative reliability of a municipal hookup, 44 percent of the city’s water supply either seeps out through ageing pipes or gets syphoned away by thieves. Bangalore sits atop a series of ridges at an elevation that affords the city month after month of moderate temperatures, nippy evenings, and clement afternoons. But this topography also permits Bangalore’s 33 inches of annual rain to flow instantly downhill.
We now are Hauling water from the nearest major river—the Cauvery, 53 miles to the south. And agree it or not. It is a formidable and inefficient affair. But for generations, Bangalore stood out for its foresight in devising ways to manage its water. The founder of the city, a 16th-century chieftain named Kempe Gowda, dug the first of the city’s lakes, to trap and hold rainwater.
Subsequent kings and then the British dug more so that a census in 1986 counted 389 lakes, spread like pock marks across the face of Bangalore. As early as 1895, Bangalore deployed steam engines to pull water from its reservoirs; a decade later, it became the first Indian city to use electric pumps. In the 1930s, the first water meters in India were installed here.
But now we have just 25 lakes left!!
Last summer, a professor from the Indian Institute of Science declared that the city will be unlivable by 2020. He later backed off his prediction of the exact time of death. P. N. Ravindra, an official at the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, “the projections are relatively correct. Our groundwater levels are approaching zero” In 2009, Bangalore passed a law demanding that buildings capture and reuse rainwater. But compliance has been spotty. Only half of the buildings governed by this rule now follow it. Inspectors can be bribed; rules can be bent. With ministers who blame bad driving skills when motorists die over bad roads to the BBMP officials who are involved more in politics than in taking care of the city, Bengaluru is ageing quickly and miserably. We probably have a year or 2 before the city breathes it’s last and becomes a desert of its own kind.
“ It is now late to act. But it is better to act now before it is fully over”