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Bengaluru’s growth story

Bengaluru, the world’s most dynamic city, ranks 58 in the Ease of Living Index released by the Government of India. These rankings present a contrasting picture of the city and that is precisely the reason why many Bengalurians share a love-hate relationship with it.

Bengaluru is said to have been founded by Kempe Gowda, a feudatory of the Vijaynagar empire. The transformation of the city from a barren plateau to a ‘Garden City’ is remarkable and the credit for his goes to the hard work of successive kingdoms.

In the 1970s, the city boasted a green cover of 68%. Splendid lakes, numerous parks, and lush green trees defined it. It indeed proved to be a paradise for anyone who chose to live here. This was until the city underwent a massive socio-economic change. Till the 1970s, the city was predominantly involved in the manufacturing sector. The preferential treatment shown by the Indian government, post-Independence, towards Bengaluru certainly helped its economy, with many PSUs setting up their headquarters in the city. To add to it, the city was blessed with many universities and colleges. The State government’s initiatives in the Information Technology sector, such as setting up the Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation (Keonics) and establishing Electronics City further boosted the growth.

The availability of quality education and the emergence of new industries in Bengaluru meant new opportunities for the youth, and this resulted in large-scale migration into the city. The sudden influx created problems for the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, which found it difficult to match the growing demands. Numerous unplanned revenue layouts cropped up all over the city to house the rising population. Most of these fell outside the purview of the City Municipal Corporation and were naturally neglected.

The liberalisation of the Indian economy and the gradual devaluation of the rupee in the 1990s provided a new impetus to the already thriving industries of Bengaluru. The city was successful in attracting large-scale private investment from across the world and this phase witnessed a significant rise in the GDP growth rate of Bengaluru. When India grew at an average rate of 7.93% between 1993 and 2004, Bengaluru clocked a GDP growth rate of 20.76% in the same period. IT sector exports, of which about 40% is contributed by Bengaluru, has helped India immensely in bridging the trade deficit.

Masking the incredible growth story of Bengaluru is the infrastructure-related issues that have really affected the image of Brand Bengaluru. Traffic congestion, deteriorating air quality, poor waste management, water scarcity and poor road maintenance have made life in Bengaluru difficult. In the past four decades, Bengaluru has witnessed a reduction in the number of waterbodies by 79% and green cover by 89% according to one estimate. Overdependence on borewells has resulted in the depletion of the water table from 12 metres to 91 metres in the last two decades according to one measurement.

Even as the Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike became the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in 2007, the issues continued to grow. A centralised city corporation system seems to have failed to address the issues and it has been suggested by many that the only way out is to decentralise the whole system. With greater autonomy and smaller regions to administer, it is widely believed that the city corporation will be much more effective and accountable.

Given the city’s ever-growing infrastructure issues and other bottlenecks, many multinational corporations are now sceptical about continuing their operations or establishing new facilities in Bengaluru. Some of the IT-BT industries, the very backbone of Bengaluru’s economy, are threatening to move out if these issues are not addressed properly. The numerous start-up friendly policies being doled out by the State government will prove to be ineffective in the absence of robust infrastructure that caters to the needs of the growing population.

While the city’s resounding success and growth rate have placed it firmly on the world map, it has had to pay dearly for these. The over-expansion and massive infrastructure projects have had devastating effects on its rich green cover and serene lakes. The city finds itself at a crossroads. While the government is pursuing elevated corridors and road network expansion to decongest the city, vigilant citizens groups, wary of further tree-cutting, are opposing it vehemently.

Problems are aplenty and the possible solutions tricky. Often, the solution to one problem creates an issue of its own. What Bengaluru needs is an action plan that while addressing the present issues also accommodates future challenges. With the right intent and the will to act, the government has a great potential to change the way things are currently looking for Bengaluru. It needs to take on board both urban planning experts and citizen’s groups to find a sustainable solution for its problems.

The next few years will determine Bengaluru’s future. With the intricacies involved, it will be interesting to see if Bengaluru will overcome its unique challenges and truly become the city of dreams where millions of people realise their goals and enjoy the rich experience it offers.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2022 11:36:26 pm |