50 years of The Hindu's Bengaluru edition

Growing by leaps and bounds

The story of Bengaluru over the last half-a-century is very distinct from that of the previous half. It was from the decade of the 1970s that the city started growing at a rapid pace.

Its population, which was 1.6 million in 1971, rose to 2.9 million in 1981, registering the highest growth of 76% for any metropolitan city in India.

By 2011, it had risen to 8.7 million, and currently it is estimated at 13 million, an eight-fold increase over a 50-year period. This rapid growth has raised the status of Bengaluru to that of a mega city. It has also resulted in enormous pressure on its infrastructure.

Urban infrastructure includes economic infrastructure covering water, sewerage, power, roads, transportation, land, housing and real estate, and social infrastructure.

How has the growth of infrastructure of Bengaluru during the last 50 years impacted its economic development and social change?

Saga of water supply

Water supply for Bengaluru was for a long time sourced from lakes. In 1930s, two reservoirs were built at Thippagondanahalli and Hesaraghatta which facilitated piped water supply to the city’s residents. Realising the need to augment the water supply to meet the needs of the growing population, the city’s planners decide to tap water from a more reliable source, viz the Cauvery which meant transporting water from about 90 km. Thus started the first phase of the Cauvery Water Supply Scheme in 1969, which was completed in 1974 adding 135 mld of water.

This was followed by the second, third, and fourth phases resulting in a total supply of 1,400 mld of water to the Bengaluru metropolitan area. The proposed fifth phase of the Cauvery project is expected to add 775 mld of water at a cost of ₹5,550 crore.

The per capita supply of water to Bengaluru which was around 90 litre per capita per day (lpcd) in 1970 is currently about 109 lpcd. It falls short of the norms of 135 lpcd prescribed by the Union government. The needs of several outlying areas of the city are served by groundwater.

The unrestricted exploitation of groundwater is a matter of serious concern. Some experts fear Bengaluru may face a water crisis if adequate measures are not taken. While rainwater harvesting has been made mandatory, the government is also encouraging water recycling for non-potable use.

As 80% of the water used goes as waste water or sewage, the system of waste water disposal is of vital importance, especially in the context of sanitation.

Bengaluru has a sewerage network of 7,950 km, but this is mostly confined to the central area of the city. Most of the 110 villages added to the city in 2007 do not have it.

Pioneer in electrification

It is interesting to note that Bengaluru was the first city in India to be electrified, back in 1904 when the first power line was built between KGF and the city. With the setting up of a number of hydro-electric power stations and, subsequently, thermal power plants in Karnataka, the power supply to the city was comfortable till the 1970s. Karnataka was the first State to set up a separate power generating company, the Karnataka Power Corporation in 1970. However, with the rapid industrialisation and the growth of population, the demand for power began soaring and the city started facing a shortage.

While the quantity of power supply may now be considered satisfactory, the quality of power leaves much to be desired, resulting in voltage fluctuations and power interruptions. This has also led to the usage of a large number of diesel generators and other back-up systems causing pollution.

To improve efficiency in managing the power sector, the supply was corporatised by setting up a separate transmission company, and four distribution companies in the State.

Bescom was established in 2002 to serve the needs of the capital city and its outlying areas.

Karnataka has also emerged as the leading State in renewable energy with 29% of its energy requirements being generated from sources such as wind, solar, and biomass.

A solar rooftop programme has been launched in the State and about 1,870 rooftops have been installed in Bengaluru, with a capacity of 147 MW. We are also on the verge of the modernisation of the energy sector, with plans for advanced metering infrastructure (smart meters), and charging stations for electric vehicles.

Scarcity of urban land

Urban land constitutes the basis for building the economic and social infrastructure of a city. The Bengaluru Development Authority, established in 1976, is responsible for planning and providing developed land for housing and other facilities.

It brought out the first Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) for Bengaluru in 1985 and this was followed by the Revised CDP of 1995 and the Master Plan of 2015.

The BDA has developed about 25 residential layouts and provided about over a lakh sites to different sections of society.

However, the bulk of housing in the city has come up in the private sector. The scarcity of urban land and high land prices have necessitated a vertical growth, resulting in a large number of high-rise buildings ushering in the apartment culture.

Social infrastructure has witnessed significant growth over the last 50 years but there are areas of concern. With an increasing trend of parents admitting their children to private educational institutions, a number of school and college buildings have come up on residential and commercial areas, adding to congestion and mobility.

Moreover, these buildings have hardly any open spaces let alone playgrounds.

Some of the shortcomings in the infrastructure sector in Bengaluru include its state of roads and footpaths, playgrounds, and open spaces, which are shrinking by the day.

Water and energy conservation are critical calling for special attention. What is needed is an integrated approach to planning and monitoring infrastructure development with a view to upgrading it to international standards.

(A. Ravindra is former Chief Secretary of Karnataka and Chairman, Centre of Sustainable Development.)

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 12:38:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/growing-by-leaps-and-bounds/article31881174.ece

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