The call for a ‘Swachh Bharat’ irritates me, because my city is far from being clean. Bengaluru, my charming garden city, is being destroyed every day. Of course, the burgeoning population could be the primary cause, but what is happening to the civic sense of the citizens? What role do the civic authorities play?
Most main roads are dug up for construction of flyovers, metro rail or some road widening project. Don’t even ask about the roads within residential areas. Beautiful bungalows are mindlessly demolished to build apartments with a minimum of four storeys (with one more illegal storey, of course). Thus, construction is never-ending.
The roads are covered with sand, mud and gravel. The bustling traffic creates a continuous layer of smog in the city. This pollutes the air severely, making adults, children and infants suffer from lung diseases.
One must not forget noise pollution. Drilling, digging, boring, welding and breaking sounds continue till late nights. If we, the citizens raise these issues, we are at best ignored, and if we are persistent, rebuked.
The plight of trees
Trees are being felled like it is nobody’s business. Only God knows what the forest department is doing! People like us, who know the value of trees and object to cutting of trees, or at least want to preserve the trees planted within our compounds, are seen as anti-socials.
Our concrete-loving neighbours cannot put up with leaf litter or fronds. Precious foliage for such people is garbage. They would rather be in their air conditioned rooms than enjoy natural breeze in this sizzling summer. Tomorrow when the groundwater resource is gone, they will have the money to purchase water, maybe recycled from toilets!
Open defecation, not a thing of the past
The slogan ‘open defecation free India’ is so farcical. I wish the Prime Minister and his team would visit the residential areas in metros, especially Bengaluru. It seems like most Bengalureans have no toilets in their homes. Through the day, you can see people peeing in every empty corner of the city.
Abandoned old buildings, or buildings under construction where work is temporarily suspended, are conveniently used as public toilets. Many commercial buildings do not provide toilets (though the government proudly announces constructing toilets in villages). Hence shopkeepers use the walls and spaces around the buildings and the streets nearby, as toilets.
Just the other day, I attended a function at Kannada Sahitya Parishat and I happened to walk along the broad street next to it. I was so shocked at the stench, that I had to cover my nose and walk!
Right in front of my house, there is a large space belonging to the Karnataka Housing Board (KHB). This area is regularly used for dumping garbage. Also, there is mud dug up for construction, and the area is used as a public urinal by all passers-by, including construction workers, local shopkeepers and students!
Drive through Bengaluru, and this is the state everywhere, except for a few thoroughfares through which VIPs zoom past. I was shocked to read that Bengaluru is competing for the Swachh Bharat award. What a joke!
Awards should be given only after physical verification by responsible officials, and not on the basis of records – ‘so many toilets built’, ‘so many tons of garbage cleared’ or some other baseless claim. Just drive along the highways in all directions. The garbage collected from our homes are dumped along the highways.
Garbage all around
Nobody is willing to take responsibility for the garbage dumped by commercial establishments along roads in every locality. Most stormwater drains are blocked by garbage and foliage. But only when it rains heavily, flooding low-lying areas, do the authorities wake up. No new construction follows regulations on set-off area or parking lots.
Bengaluru was definitely not this bad 40-50 years ago! Civic authorities were more responsible. People led simpler lives and hence the amount of garbage generated was limited. We carried cloth bags. Vendors would pack groceries in newspapers. Plastic was rarely used.
Most of us never used diapers for children, managing with pieces of cloth. Children too were toilet-trained early in life. Today, it is disgusting to see garbage mounds strewn all around with stray dogs pulling out diapers and sanitary napkins from them. How hygienic is this?
BBMP ignores complaints
We, residents along two roads surrounding the KHB land, had appealed to the BBMP to convert this space into a green island. I even lodged complaints about the misuse of this land and about the state of our road, 20 percent of which is covered with construction materials, 25 percent by eateries and 30 percent by illegally parked vehicles.
The sand and mud strewn all over the road is hardly ever cleaned up. The footpath is strewn with garbage, debris, foliage and the corpses of the trees axed down. There is smog in the air always, and we are unable to open our windows and doors.
My complaints were automatically rounded off as ‘already attended to’ in the SMS sent by BBMP. The situation, however remains the same.
People of Bengaluru have to seriously introspect, discuss and pledge to change such dangerous conditions before things go beyond repair. With summer knocking on our doors, the city is ripe with seasonal infections. The planners, still not satisfied, are preparing to chop another thousand trees in the name of the elevated corridor. Bengaluru will turn into a dry desert sooner than the scientists are predicting! Where will I then go to breathe fresh air and drink clean water?