The March 28 polls to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Council come at a time when the city is creaking under the weight of an ever-growing population, unplanned expansion of residential areas, increasing number of vehicles, inadequate drinking water supply and mounting piles of garbage.
The task of providing infrastructure that keeps pace with the explosive growth Bangalore has registered in the last couple of years is turning out to be a challenge for city planners.
The BBMP polls are being held not only almost nine years after the last elections to the erstwhile Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP), but also more than three years after the term of the previous elected Council expired. As against the 45 lakh people who were residing in BMP limits during the 2001 polls, the population has now swelled to an estimated 80 lakh, with more than 66 lakh voters figuring on the electoral rolls for the March 28 polls.
Simultaneously, the geographic spread of Bangalore has almost tripled — from 226 sq km during 2001 to 740 sq km with the merger of seven city municipal councils and one town municipal council on the outskirts of the city — to form the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike.
The number of vehicles has increased from 14.73 lakh in 2001 to 34.77 lakh in 2009, making the city's roads some of the most chaotic in the country. With almost 35 lakh vehicles jostling for space on the roads, Bangalore has the unenviable distinction of recording the slowest traffic movement across major cities in India, according to studies.
Compared to an estimated need of 1,250 million litres of drinking water per day (MLD), the city gets only 900 MLD. People carrying empty pots, looking for scarce sources of drinking water, has become a common sight in many parts of the city. Even the requirement of 1,250 MLD is a conservative estimate, calculated taking into account only 74 of the 250 newly added areas to the BBMP, in addition to the old BMP areas.
Garbage has become a major headache for Bangaloreans with the Zero Garbage Policy turning out to be a flop. Ever since the civic authorities removed roadside garbage bins and introduced door-to-door collection system, complaints about uncleared garbage have increased. Illegal encroachment of storm water drains and linking of sewage lines with storm water drains is rampant across the city, leading to flooding of low-lying areas during monsoon. Out of the estimated 800 km of raja kaluves, which serve as storm water drains, more than 400 km are believed to have been encroached upon before the BBMP launched a drive to clear them.
Yet, Bangalore's unbridled growth has offered unprecedented economic opportunities for its burgeoning population. Home to more than 2,000 software companies, the city has earned for itself the sobriquet of IT capital of India, attracting talent from all parts of the country.
It remains to be seen whether the coming elections will help find solutions to the endless civic woes Bangaloreans have been enduring for years now.