‘Rome was not built in a day’ goes a popular saying emphasizing the efforts invested in creating something that stands the test of time. Development of cities requires a similar action, an effort, a plan and an eye for the future. Bangalore, #IT capital of India, #Garden city and I stop the hash tag references with that as the latest trending ones are not the ones true Bangaloreans like me can’t be proud of. So, what went wrong from being the place to be and being a city of the past?
Growth, economic and social growth was witnessed post the IT boom, but it was still resting on the laurels of being a pensioners’ paradise. Yes, post independence the central Govt. setup a few companies BEL, HAL and alike, it was complimented by a few state owned companies in the 1960s. So, post 1980s we had a crop of people retiring from services and settling down. Bangalore until then grew around the premises of these big companies. The old Bangalore still retained its charm, with the busy market place, places of worship and a few educational institutions. The weekend or should I say Sunday hangouts were the parks and the lakes, there were close to 500 plus lakes at one point of time. Going back to the 1980s , yes the retiring group wanted to settle, in Indian terms is build a house, get your kids married and then your daily chore would just be walking to the parks , temples and market. New localities came into being, in fact the Govt. companies had indeed procured land and allotted to the employees. It was then we had Bangalore expanding beyond the four towers of Kempegowda. Infrastructure was taking shape, civic amenities were provided and that generation was all set. But why din’t anyone tell the city planners that in next couple of decades we would have close to a crore people passing through the city.
So, more people mean more houses, more vehicles and big roads for the vehicles to ply. OK, we sort of managed that phase we got the infrastructure planning finally on mind and the work began. Herein began the problem, a disconnect between the past and the future. We went big, we had big roads built, flyovers, apartment complexes and the glitzy malls. This resulted in a sort of ‘The funnel effect’, yes you had something big that’s going down a small outlet. That’s the drainage systems , they were all built with an eye for the old lakes. You din’t have big pipes and machinery that went below the lakes , in most cases they were routed around. And when the lakes disappeared we lost the big banks of water reservoirs , so where do we store the rain water? The lakes which until then were the reservoirs of rain water were now gone. Thankfully the Bangalore monsoon has retained its charm, we still get the annual average rainfall but instead of being stored in the lakes they just flow on roads and get into the drains. In short, we are simply emptying the lakes every monsoon into the drains. Sounds funny, but that is the hard truth. There begins a vicious cycle of problems.
We have roads paved well during the year, but nothing remains post monsoon. Consider the funnel problem again, we have the rain water that was previously meant for the lakes now trying to squeeze into the drains. But we haven’t built any underground lakes for the water to enter. So, when it rains we have water flowing down the ‘paved roads’ , motor vehicles wading through the waters , day in and day out during the monsoon and eventually results in the roads disappearing. Now to add the problems, the big city emptied the trash into the drains, now we have the same funnel but we have valve ( the trash) that regulates the flow down the oultet. And without an understanding of this basic issue for which we all are responsible we end up passing the buck. The buck should stop with us, we have to accept the collective failure and live with it.
The good thing is that we still have good monsoons, so we should enjoy them for now, for who knows we might have another disaster that is waiting to happen.