Beating heat a tough task, breathing toxic air tougher
As the ‘most pleasant weather’ tag slips away from Bengaluru, as the mercury levels go beyond 37 degrees this summer, rising air pollution has made it all worse. Increased industrial activities, unregulated vehicular emissions and construction dust have all combined to aggravate it further.
K V Lakshmana, a retired mediaperson and a resident of the city, observes: “As we all get stuck in traffic jams, it has become very difficult to inhale the exhaust fumes. The infrastructure has collapsed, impacting the environment a lot.”
The city, he says, is booming with its residential, industrial and IT sectors dotted with restaurants galore, all conveniently located close to offices. But these outlets also draw a stream of private personal vehicles, bringing with them high pollution.
The highways and arterial roads also bring in a host of intra-city and long-distance trucks, billowing out smoke. Adding to this is the dust generated by the ceaseless construction boom.
In this rising pollution graph, another resident, Malavika Harita finds a correlation with the changing weather pattern in the city. “As someone who has grown up in Bangalore and belongs here, I can feel how warm it has become over the years. Winters have disappeared. I have put away all my sweaters. Don’t need them anymore,” she says.
The deadly mix of pollution and heat has made it worse. Harita notes, “You cannot drive around the city with the windows down, so you need air conditioning again. If you want to live in Bengaluru you will surely need a personal air-conditioned bubble.”
Beyond construction dust and industrial emissions, it is the sheer number of vehicles over 15 years old that cause maximum pollution. Most of these run on a mixture of kerosene and diesel to save money, but in the process release smoke that is extremely polluting.
Rising number of private personal vehicles is a definite trigger for increase in air pollution. But Harita does not blame people for buying their own vehicles. “A lot of us wouldn’t buy a vehicle if we had an efficient public transport system, which we don’t,” she points out.
The Metro project has been going on for years. There is no specific public transport plan for the future. The existing systems, she adds, are too overcrowded for people to switch from their private cars to the public transport.
The pollution has had a huge impact on public health. “There is a big increase in respiratory diseases. You can actually feel your throat tickling or your eyes burning,” says Harita. “I was also reading somewhere that the increase in cancer cases could be attributed to increasing pollution levels.”
A resident of the city for three decades, Sai puts the pollution issue in perspective: “I have seen Bengaluru evolved into a mega city. It used to be more like a hill station, beautiful weather, plenty of trees all around.”
But it was then, years ago. “The IT sector grew, but the city’s environment has been destroyed. Bengaluru sacrificed its abundant water bodies at the altar of development. Development should have been directed in the right way without jeopardising the city’s citizens and environment.”
Lack of entertainment for a huge working population meant setting up more and more malls. “Bengaluru has not added parks such as Lalbagh and Cubbon. This is grossly inadequate to control the rising pollution in the city, a definite sign of rapid and mindless urbanisation,” Sai laments.