With elections around the corner, all political parties and candidates in the fray are in a bid to outdo the other by making all kinds of promises in their election manifestos to make the city cleaner, better and beautiful. Some politicians have gone to extent of promising to make Bangalore akin to Singapore. However despite all these tall claims and promises made by political parties to beautify the city, the ground reality is far from different. There are some glaring civic issues and problems that have to be fixed by any of the parties coming into power that affect the lives of many ordinary citizens of Bangalore. Some of the grey areas that need immediate attention are as follows-
- Traffic Woes
According to the Transport Department of Bangalore, by December 2017 the city’s vehicle population had crossed 72.58 lakh, out of which over 50 lakh are two-wheelers and 14 lakh cars. This steady increase in car and two wheeler population has increased the load on the city’s roads. Despite The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) attempting to widen roads by acquiring adjacent private properties but lack of funds forced it to put all plans on hold. Increased number of vehicles also leads to parking issues thereby roads and by-lanes become parking spots for the general public.
The Bangalore Development Authority(BDA) by its Revised Master Plan 2031(RMP) has proposed three new ring roads, including the long-pending Peripheral Ring Road(PRR). Eight new arterial roads would also be built. Also Metro routes along the entire PRR will be developed by BDA in future and extension of the proposed Silk Board to K R Puram route (Metro Phase 2A) is there so that the entire Outer Ring Road (ORR) is covered.
The traffic woes of the ordinary commuters do not seem to end even with the introduction of Namma Metro though certain routes in the city have been de congested, yet there is so much more the government has to do to ensure traffic snarls do not become a routine at all times of the day. Widening of all the major roads is an important initiative that the government of the day should undertake to ensure roads are not choked and transit remains hassle free. Such a move will have an overall bearing on the real estate prices as homebuyers can invest in property anywhere in and around the city without having to worry about traffic and connectivity issues.
- Dying lakes and Disappearing gardens
Bangalore was at one point of time known for its beautiful lakes and gardens. Popularly known as the ‘Garden City’, the city was famous for its lush green open spaces which were ideal recreational spots. However sadly this is not the case now.
According to a Karnataka Legislature Committee report, about one-fifth of lake area in the Garden City has been encroached upon. Of the total 1,547 lakes spread across 57,932 acres in both urban and rural districts, 10,785 acres have been encroached upon by both government and private agencies, it says.
The frothing on the Varthur lake and fires on the Bellandur lake have put Bangalore on the global spotlight. The menace of frothing resulted in bigger traffic woes for the commuters in and around the Whitefield Road area.
The situation has become so worse and intolerable to the extent that citizens have decided to take matters into their hands with the help of environmentalists, citizen groups, resident welfare associations etc. to revive dying lakes by cleaning them regularly on a voluntary basis. Revival of these lakes will have a larger impact on the environment as well help increase real estate prices around such areas.
- Loss of tree cover
Thousands of trees are felled each year for development projects across the city. According to the BBMP forest department, as many as 17,964 trees were cut down between 2008 and 2016 to make way for flyovers, road widening, and other projects. The BBMP claims to have planted 1,02,039 saplings against the target of planting 1,00,000 saplings in its eight zones in 2016-17.
Again the residents have played a major role in ensuring that the existing trees and foliage are not axed incessantly to make way for developmental work. Citizen groups, environmentalists, resident welfare associations have acted as pressure groups and been in the forefront to prevent the government from making hasty decisions that have major environmental impacts.
The controversial Steel Flyover is a glaring example which had it been implemented would have resulted in the removal of 800 trees along its route. Another landmark victory for the citizens was the roll was the withdrawal to the proposed to the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act (KPTA), 1976. If it had gone ahead with the amendment, as many as 50 species of trees, most of which are in abundance in Bangalore, would have been denotified, leaving them vulnerable to the axe.
The Revised Master Plan 2031 had incorporated a provision of 10% mandatory greening for every 2,000 sq km area. The government should incorporate a sense of environment protection and preservation and should not sideline the flora and fauna of the city to give way to infrastructural development. Only if there are compelling reasons should trees be a casualty for developmental work.
- Slum areas
According to the Karnataka Slum Development Board, in 2016, there were 3,69,711 people living in 597 slums in Bangalore, down from about 700 slums when the Congress took charge in 2013. According to the KSDB survey, the state’s slum population numbers 40.50 lakh which works to 22.56 percent of Karnataka’s urban population. The KSDB has notified 2,397 slums in the state, of which presently 387 are in Bangalore. Despite having constructed around 70,000 dwellings for slum-dwellers across the state and 5,000 shelters for people living in slums in Bangalore, it does not seem to be enough. Providing proper shelter to all slum dwellers has to be taken up on a priority basis so as to clear the slum areas. Once the slum land is reclaimed, the land can be used for building other infrastructural projects like schools, hospitals, dispensaries etc which would benefit people from all strata of society. The slum land reclaimed could also be best used for building affordable housing projects for Economically Weaker Society(EWS), Low Income Group(LIG) and Middle Income Group(MIG) which are the target areas of affordable housing.
All the above grey areas need immediate attention by any government that is voted to power. These issues need to form the very base of governance which means that these issues have to be addressed and resolved at any cost. At the same time citizen groups should act as a pressure group so as to extract the maximum from the government and to ensure that promises made at the time of elections do not merely remain hollow promises on paper. The government of the day has to take up these issues on priority because if these issues are not addressed this beautiful city would soon turn into a rotting city.