Bangalore, we have a problem and it’s high time we did something about it.
From angry rants about what the city has come to be, to humorous Twitter accounts dedicated to infamous traffic junctions, the erstwhile pensioners’ paradise has slipped into being a civic nightmare. Walk a mile on any road and piles of garbage hit your eyes. It’s not uncommon to see open sewage pipes flooding the roads. Footpaths, what footpaths?
What was once a haven known for its salubrious weather is now battling with 40 degree temperatures. So much so that in a recent survey Bangalore was downgraded from its position as The Most Desirable City In India spot it had earned last year.
But, here’s the thing. No “one” person is responsible for this fall from grace. Everyone is a part of contributing to the legend that Bangalore is, as much as the mess it’s come to be. And so, the onus of helping this once glorious city restore its rightful title also rests with us. Even us urban professionals with 9 to 5 jobs because the bad news is there are no invisible elves that will fix the city for us. The government isn’t efficient enough to turn this city around overnight. The responsibility of cleaning up after us doesn’t lie with some anonymous good hearted volunteers from NGOs.
The good news is, if all of us did our bits, however little, we should see change. Good news is people are doing it. So, here’s a simple list of things, all of us, can within our capacity help.
1. Stop driving your own vehicle much as possible
We complain about the traffic ad nauseum while sitting in our cars. We are the traffic. More vehicles pile on the road everyday than the city’s infrastructure can handle. The problem doesn’t just restrict itself to creating a traffic congestion which makes commuting short distances take hours, but has become a serious pollution problem. Bangalore’s blessed with a well functioning public transport system – use it. Right from local buses catering to the lowest economic levels, we have air conditioned Volvo buses to a multitude of other sharing options. There’s car sharing programs by Uberpool, Ola share, and shuttle services like Zipgo and Ola and Bike taxis. If nothing else, you can always gather up a fellow commuter from your own neighbourhood or apartment building. Why use a car all for yourself, when you can share it 4 others?
2. Plant trees. Grow gardens
This cannot be reinforced enough. If not in your locality at large, plant a tree in your house. If you live in an apartment building, turn your terrace and/or balcony into a garden. Apart from making it a point to grab a beer every weekend, one can celebrate any milestones in life by planting a tree like the couple featured above. Saplings for trees can be bought for almost next to nothing from any plant nurseries around. Look up instructions on how to plant a sapling, find the spot, and just do it. Even if you forget about it after the initial minimum care, after a few years, the earth will not. Join terrace gardening groups online. A tree planted today will be your contribution to posterity. Read about people who have turned their own lands into forests here.
3. Encourage green living
One of the biggest contributors to a sustainable living is wanton use of electricity that’s produced by thermal and water sources. If you have a terrace in your house, investing in solar panels, may be an expensive but a sustainable proposition. The savings from a solar system can amortize the high one time costs in the long run. Ditto for rain water harvesting. Come June/July and India will slip into a 2-3 month Monsoon period. Why waste all this water when it can be easily channeled into harvesting and used up.
Other than these, simple changes like switching all the fluorescent bulbs with CFL lights, plastic with paper and cloth bags, and showers with bucket baths, are easily doable.
4. Waste segregation
One of the biggest banes of Bangalore today is huge piles of garbage that have become an ubiquitous eyesore everywhere. While many apartment buildings are actively encouraging and implementing waste segregation, most old buildings and independent colonies are oblivious to this. To be able to allow for an effective waste disposal, it’s very important to segregate waste into organic, e-waste and toxic. Even if your society doesn’t mandate it, keeping 2 separate bins for organic kitchen waste and plastics/other waste can help the local municipal workers with their work. Many citizens are actively learning to do composts from organic waste.
5. Join citizen activist programs
While most people can rant about ugly the city looks with its garbage piles, broken footpaths and defaced walls, there’s an increasing number of citizens in the city that are grouping up and coming together to find time on the weekends and take matters into their own hands. Shared by the anonymous “Ugly Indian” group, the instances of such spot fixes are inspiring and anyone can do those. Just identify a spot closest to you that could do with some fixing and beautification and get your neighbours, friends, locals involved and fix it. The city will thank you. And the best part is. you’d gifted the city something that’ll remain for times to come.
6. Flag the issues to the right authorities
The man pictured above got the authorities to notice potholes by painting crocodiles around it!
While within your own capacity, there’s only so much you can do, there are government departments who are entrusted with civic work. And since they are not motivated enough to proactively fix the city in return for our tax money, part of this responsibility lies with us. If you identify an issue with a particular area, a pothole, a streetlight missing or a road that needs repairs, don’t be shy to snap a photo, and get it published. Post it on social media, looping in the government. Many newspapers in their local sections invite contributions from the public to flag off civic issues. Make use of them. You’d be surprised at the number of issues that get solved just because someone took the time to highlight them to the right channels.
One step today can go a long way in ensuring a healthy, green and sustainable living for all us.