22 December 2005

Bangalore, not so 'very green'

A friend had come to pick me up at the Bangalore (HAL) airport. It was 8:30 p.m. and as we waited in the traffic jam just outside the airport, my friend squarely blamed the traffic police for half the city's traffic problems. Surely this can't be true, I surmised. But my friend was insistent, pointing out that the traffic police were negligent about their duties. Sure enough, we located the traffic policeman on our beat, standing in a corner in a fluorescent jacket, eating a banana, while vehicles on the road nudged each other, blowing their horns.

Apparently, this is a common phenomenon everyday, in almost all corners of Bangalore. Bangalore's traffic jams have become legendary, being reported in the media everyday, without any solutions surfacing from the millions of discussions taking place all over the city. With more and more IT and BPO companies setting up shop in Bangalore, the city's human and vehicular population is growing at an astronomical rate. The city's roads, infrastructure plans and administration are just not geared up for this explosion.

Bangalore's traffic problem is now new… as you'll find in die-hard Bangalorean Birbal's lament in www.koramangala.com going back a year: “Sad, isn't it? I mean, after all Bangalore's charm was in just going out; shopping, movies, dinner at a restaurant; or perhaps that late night drive for ice-cream on MG Road or paan at Brigade Road. A time will come when our grandchildren will read in their history books about, 'Once upon a time, there was this garden city called Bangalore.'”

I decided to test the traffic conditions myself and took an auto-rickshaw ride from Hennur, one of Bangalore's suburbs, to another suburb called Koramangala. The journey took an hour, long by Bangalore's standards, winding through detours as the roads were dug-up and under construction in many places. Being a Mumbaikar, I'm used to long auto-rickshaw rides, and hence I didn't mind this all that much. Perhaps, I was expecting it.

But, what surprised me was the amount of dust that enveloped me through the journey. Once I arrived at my destination, I actually saw the auto-rickshaw driver blow a thick layer of dust from his dashboard as he waited for me to pay his fare. This was not what I had seen, nor experienced, in Bangalore before. Bangalore has always been a very green city. There has always been - and still are - trees everywhere. Several parks adorn the city too. This was what Bangalore was known for. But now, dust seems to cover it all.

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