How did Bangalore convert from garden city to garbage city?

Bangalore is again in news albeit for the wrong reasons. The garbage in the city has again started to pile up as nearby village refuses to allow any more dumping. This problem surfaced earlier too and some action was promised. But nothing happened as recent events show. Bangalore has indeed moved from its image of being a garden city to a garbage one.

This prompted me to write a more detailed post on the city’s woes as it is not limited to garbage alone. It has been a year since the blogger shifted to Bangalore. Apart from renewing some dead grey cells, the stay has been an eye-opener of sorts. How did Bangalore become this bad?

A city which brought India so much economic prominence has just been allowed to decline in an alarming way. It is even more disturbing considering that the city has declined in most urban terms whereas it has been quite a success on economic terms. How does one figure this disconnect and diverging trends?

Nothing really prepares you for Bangalore. One is warned before moving to other big cities but usually gets a favorable response while moving to Bangalore. And this is where the problems start. One usually comes with expectations that all shall be well (after all the song all is well from the movie 3 idiots was shot in the city) but realizes it is a well of problems.

Bangalore’s list of problems is never ending:

  • Garbage – The city’s transition from garden city to garbage city has been near perfect. Many parts of the city have huge and large garbage piles which is maintained as if it is some national treasure. Even the gardens are so badly managed that are hardly short of garbage dumps themselves. The news over garbage has again come up which is not anything new really. The city has one of the most ancient systems of vehicles for collecting garbage. Most of these vehicles are too small and are usually open from the back. This ensures that garbage is spilled across the road on which the vehicle moves. The idea to convert into a garbage city is a serious one.
  • Water – The city may have one of the best pubs and bars but does not have reasonable drinking water in most part of the cities. The quality of water is shocking. The water tankers help manage the entire water supply in the city. It is funny to see how these tankers supply water towards construction of fancy tall buildings. And these water tankers like their garbage counterparts spill the water everywhere it goes which not just dirties the road but wastes the precious resource.
  • Roads – What does one say on the city’s roads?  Being from UP, one can safely say that even roads in UP are better than ones in Bangalore. And those from UP thought no one could beat their state towards (non) development and (mis)management of roads. Each Bangalorean literally is like a soldier taking on the roads everyday. Bangalore suffers from all aspects of road management  – quantity of roads, quality of roads, pot holes ( actually black holes), lack of footpaths, endless traffic (explained  next) etc. The list is a never ending one. The roads are really narrow at some crucial points. What is worse is one does not see any vision/plan to improve things. In most places, there are atleast some plans to build flyovers, broaden roads, etc. Here there is nothing at all.
  • Traffic- Connected to the last point, but deserves a separate heading. Traffic management in the city is so poor that one does not know where to look. There are no traffic lights at important junctions, road dividers are cut as per convenience, traffic police is largely absent, direction boards are absent, night lights  are absent on most roads etc. It is so common to see people talking on their phones while driving with no fear of police and law.

    Again the list could go on and on,. The city has just one way to manage traffic – build tall bumpers wherever you can. The number of road bumpers in the city could lead the entry of city in Guinness Book of records (worth trying actually). It was quite ironical when the youth in Bangalore celebrated the extension of night time from 11 PM to 1 AM. Perhaps they don’t value their lives at all given how random the city’s traffic design is.

  • Public transport – If there is one city which needs trains as public transport it is this. The existing system of public buses is as stressful given the state of roads and traffic. The buses are highly crowded forcing people to take their own vehicles. Given the narrow roads, buses themselves are a part of  problem as they disrupt traffic while turning around the roads. Then these buses stop wherever they want making things even more complex.  Actually, we need to perhaps have smaller buses with higher frequency in these narrow stretches of roads.

    So getting some form of train system is paramount issue here.  It is taking ages to build Metro here and the one stretch that has opened is just a tourist attraction (what a pity given the gravity of the problem). Given the global attention Bangalore generates for India, the least our policymakers could have done is to create another Delhi Metro kind of framework here. I mean how much effort does it take given the success we have seen in the country itself. We have built the airport so far off and with no train in sight to connect, there is always stress on trying to reach the airport. A train facility connecting to major destinations would be such a relief to a population which is suffering on every count. If we can’t provide the natural resources, we can atleast try and provide the manmade ones.

  •  Electricity – The electricity situation in the city is also pretty bad. One sees lose wires across the city like we see in small cities across the country. Whenever it rains, the electricity goes off! This one usually sees in small places and not metro cities like Bangalore. It is even more troublesome considering it rains quite a bit in the city.
  • Village or a city? – The city’s several areas are suffixed with halli meaning village. Like most cities, Bangalore too has become bigger by absorbing these villages. However in all this, the basic model of a village is still intact. I mean they should have either converted these villages to a city kind or not integrated them in the city at the first place. The end result is a mess with multiple villages trying to resemble a city. The roads have not really been broadened and basic civic amenities are missing. People are first building city like apartments and then figure ways to connect them to civic life. It is quite common here to see the whole road being dug up to lay pipelines etc for the new apartment. And then stray animals are all over the roads. It is bizarre whichever way you look at it.

It is amazing what we have done to this city known for its beauty and salubrious climate. I was reading some history of why IT industry came in Bangalore. It mentioned weather and dust-free environment as two crucial factors. Weather is still quite favorable (though people say this is worsening too with prolonged summers) but dust-free has become a dust-bowl now.

The city is perhaps beyond its surgery stage given how disconnected the limbs are. But we have no choice considering the patient has to live. I mean the city has many intelligent souls, how can it be so soulless in its basic public service offering? The city also has many respectable public figures known well to polity, but have been unable to highlight the concerns. The national media also does not help its cause focusing on just Delhi and Mumbai. Bangalore is still seen as part of regional media which is such a shame given how much the city’s has contributed to India’s international status.

India is reeling under terrible urban stress. But somehow I guess Bangalore beats all of them. I have only listed problems and not their solutions which is unfortunate. I have very little know-how on design of urban systems and cannot contribute much. But I think if we fix governance lots can be achieved. Lot of above problems can be resolved via basic and effective governance. We need to make people accountable for what is going on in India’s cities. Unless, we have people responsible for managing cities and people knowing who to catch for mismanagement, nothing can happen really. We also need public policy experts across areas. Mere generalist approach is unlikely to help much.

There is a lot of talk on how India plans to build 100+ new smart cities under the new govt. Now sure what smartness means though. However, if one looks at urban development historically, most people aggregate around existing cities. The bigger cities continue to get bigger as they are able to give people opportunities. New cities take a long time before people can take them seriously. Only if you are a Detroit where you just focus on one industry, does a city decline (actually Bangalore too is highly dependent on just one industry). So, we need to maintain our focus on existing cities  atleast for time being.

We need to get our act together on managing our urban hells. Much of the effort in recent times has been around the word reform. Well, we need a form first before we can reform really. Time to act before some mega disaster hits the top cities..

6 Responses to “How did Bangalore convert from garden city to garbage city?”

  1. sabhlok Says:

    Thanks, but India has to understand basics of governance. There is NO conception of governance in India. I wager Rs.1 lakh that India will remain a GARBAGE DUMP after five years of Modi. http://www.sabhlokcity.com/2014/06/i-wager-rs-1-lakh-that-india-will-remain-a-garbage-dump-after-five-years-of-modi/

  2. m.swetha Says:

    what ever they try out bangalores garbage city is as it self. but ther are many ways to make bangalore again into garden city.i wish at least modi tries out to solve this problem.

  3. Aditi Vedpathak Says:

    Bangalore is a “Silicon City” in India, Modi’s goverment need to thinking on how improve all this point mention in upon article. And now a days need to improve in Bangalore because, In Bangalore, IT companies stable and very good future of all this areas. ezmove.in

  4. Ravi Kanth Says:

    Bangalore is the WORST CITY IN THE WHOLE WORLD, by the way i was born and brought up in bangalore and now struggling through this daily chaos there is no more local kannadigas here who cared all that matter is money and crime rates are going up day by day… Bye Bye garbage city..

  5. Tarika Vaswani Says:

    Hi there!

    I tried to find your email ID on your blog but was unable to do so. I’m writing on behalf of an organisation called Citizengage ( http://www.citizengage.co/ ). We’re a startup working in the waste management space. We’ve recently launched and are ready to spread our wings across Bangalore (especially in the following areas – Indiranagar/Kormangala/MG Road/CV Raman/New Thippasandra/Cox Town/Frazer Town)

    I was wondering if you could help us spread the word through your blog? We are looking for apartment complexes (with 25+ complexes), restaurants, hotels, hospitals, clinics, spas, beauty parlours, and schools in Indiranagar/Kormangala/MG Road/CV Raman/New Thippasandra/Cox Town/Frazer Town to get in touch with us ( info@citizengage.co) today to manage their waste smartly and keep it out of landfills.

    Watch this video to see how we
    do it – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeXlnfG46Zk

    regards,
    Tarika

  6. carl howard Says:

    perhaps it has to do with endemic corruption? if i have to bribe the garbage collector to get the job done, the garbage will not be collected where there are no bribes to take. simple economics.

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