Forget the lakes, greedy builders encroached on drains
By SOUMIK DUTTA
BENGALURU, Aug 5 (The CONNECT) - Bengaluru had been ranked as the most liveable city, but the glory and adulation was short lived.
The ‘Silicon Valley of India’ topped the list in term of ‘ease of living’ in a survey conducted by the Union Urban Development Ministry in March 2021.
But the city ranked as the least liveable city in India this year as per the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Global Liveability Index 2022 report released on 24 June, 2022.
The report ranks cities across the world on their ‘liveability’ quotient or condition of living offered in a city.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, a global media and information services company.
Its Global Liveability Index 2022 is determined by 5 factors-- stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.
Stability and culture and environment have the highest weightage — 25% each — while healthcare and infrastructure get a weightage of 20% each and education has a weightage of 10%.
This was the first time that the index has included Chennai, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad; earlier reports only featured Delhi and Mumbai among Indian cities.
Among Indian cities, New Delhi received the top rank of 140, with a liveability score of 56.5. This was followed by Mumbai at 141 (score 56.2), Chennai at 142 (score 55.8), Ahmedabad at 143 (score 55.7) and Bengaluru at 146 (score 54.4).
However, the IT city saw a sharp downfall, owing to poor infrastructure.
The city received a score of 46.4 (out of 100) in infrastructure, the lowest among all Indian cities.
The infrastructure score is based on quality of roads, public transportation system, international links, energy provision, telecommunications, water and availability of good quality housing.
Pakistan’s Karachi (51.8), amongst the five least liveable cities in the world in the index, scored better than Bengaluru on infrastructure parameter. Bengaluru’s infrastructure score was equal to Lagos in Nigeria, the third-least liveable city in the world.
A study conducted by Prof TV Ramachandra and Dr Bharath H Aithal of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), had earlier predicted that Bengaluru will become a dead city in five years(by 2021-22).
Unplanned growth will make the city unliveable, the study said. The study bases its prediction on the following findings: There has been a 525 percent growth in built-up area in the last four decades, 78 percent decline in vegetation, and 79 percent decline in water bodies.
What was once the Garden City has become a concrete jungle filled with dust and choked with vehicle exhaust. Water bodies have disappeared; trees have been cut down to make way for buildings.
The city has expanded outwards with little planning. Roads are poorly maintained and inadequate; groundwater levels are plunging due to over-exploitation; and there is no drainage of which to speak.
Ramachandra’s research is based on satellite data and ground observations and the study uncovers a few facts.
The norm to keep at least 15-20 percent of the city as open space is ignored, storm water drains and water bodies have been narrowed. According to the report, 54 percent of lakes were encroached for illegal buildings. The ones remaining are in poor health, 66 percent are fed by sewage, 14 percent are surrounded by slums, and 72 percent showed loss of catchment area due to construction.
Bengaluru Gardens only in Google Photos, soon!
Urbanisation rose 125 percent from 2000 to 2014; all at the expense of the city’s once-famous greenery. Trees have been cut down mercilessly to make way for road widening and construction.
Bengaluru’s human population is currently 95 lakh against a tree population of around 15 lakh. That works out to around one tree for every seven humans.
“Based on age, every day one person exhales 540-900 grams of carbon dioxide and one hectare of trees takes in close to eight tons of carbon dioxide. So based on that calculation every person needs eight trees”, the report explained.
The arrival of large numbers of skilled and unskilled workmen created associated sociological and law and order problems.
Forget the lakes, greedy builders encroached on drains. In many places, natural drains have been covered and built over. This is a problem on two fronts. One, the water has nowhere to go, which makes flooding a common phenomenon during rains.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the administrative body responsible for the civic and infrastructural assets of the city, was formed in 2007 by merging 100 wards of the erstwhile Bangalore Mahanagara Palike with seven City Municipal Councils (CMC) – Rajarajeshwari, Dasarahalli, Bommanahalli, Krishnarajapuram, Mahadevapura, Byatarayanapura and Yelahanka, one Town Municipal Council (Kengeri) and 111 villages around Bengaluru.
BBMP has now divided Bengaluru, spread over aerial extent of 741 sq. km., into 198 wards. The expansion of Bangalore City Corporation limits has grown over ten times in last sixty years.
Interestingly, if the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order on lake buffer zones and drains is imposed, all 19 lakh properties in the city will have to be demolished. This stunning revelation was made by the local civic body BBMP.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), in its submission to the apex court on the existing properties in connection with the green panel’s order on the buffer zone for lakes and drains, had raised concerns that if the Supreme Court (SC) upholds the NGT’s order, it may result in demolition of all properties in the city.
The BBMP also claimed that there are 31,500 buildings located within the increased buffer zone of tanks/lakes.
The NGT set the guidelines of lake buffer zone that no construction shall take place till 75 metres from the lake’s boundary.
Political blame game:
The Karnataka Congress slammed the Basavaraj Bommai led BJP government in the state after its capital city ranked as the least livable city in India.
Karnataka Congress working president Ramalinga Reddy, a former Bengaluru affairs minister, told a news conference, “The government claims to have given ₹6,000 crore to Bengaluru. If the money was spent properly, then the city wouldn’t have fallen to this level.”