City of gardens vs city of rickshaws

City of gardens vs city of rickshaws

In the Ease of Living Index, Bangalore officially Bengaluru ranked number one in 2020 and 2021 among the Indian cities with a population of over 1.0 million. There may be other contenders with sparse population, where people go for a change and recovery of physical and mental health but for any mega city achieving the top laurel in terms of livability is something really to savour.

Of course, the best attribute of India's third most populous city is its pleasant weather throughout the year. With the highest ever elevation at a height of 900 metre (3,000ft) among the major Indian cities, Bangalore is a garden city with its verdant green all around reigning supreme. There are high-rise buildings which hardly obstruct views, because the picturesque woodlands and gardens with its famous Lalbagh Botanical Garden and Cubbon Park topping the list offer a soothing sight to eyes.

However, the natural gifts could in no way stand as an impediment for its becoming India's Silicon Valley by virtue of its role of the nation's leading information and technology exporter. What strikes a foreign visitor is the synthesis it has brought about in the apparently contrasting natural setting and the advanced systems of institutions and infrastructure for education, science, technology and medical care. Harmonisation of contrasting concepts and systems has retained the soul of the city in its right place and at the same time promoted the key ingredients of modern life including the more mundane elements of finance with its metro GDP (gross domestic product) size estimated at $110 billion in 2021.

So the ecological and environmental endowments have been retained and even added to by careful considerations. It is exactly where Dhaka City, the capital of Bangladesh has faltered. Bangalore boasts trees as old as the early years of the past century all over the city, so did Dhaka once but apart from a few in a handful of areas, they have all vanished in the name of so-called development. Ramna and Dhaka University have lost their geriatric floral guardians long ago. Even the few remaining were rapaciously felled in recent times. The Osmany Udyan also suffered the same fate. Whereas in Bangalore every available space -- be it on the footpath or roadside vacant place --  is used for planting new saplings.

In my short stay of three weeks so far in Bangalore, where cuckoos coo, parrots fly and announce their presence with their customary shrill cries, and a particular winged species with green colour smaller than parrots copiously coo-oo their hearts out and other birds including kites nest on trees close by human quarters, what has fascinated me most is the city's smooth going. People have become accustomed to living with different species of flora and fauna in close proximity.

Why Dhaka, then finds demoted to the worst possible ranks in the livability index is not difficult to figure out. That the air quality in Dhaka mostly stays at the worst possible precarious level is best explained by the denudation of the city of its green cover and no effort to replace the vanished trees. Also, the brick kilns still allowed to operate nearby the city does the rest to foul the air beyond redemption.

Next comes the mindless filling up of the water bodies that not only drained out the excess rain waters but also sustained the level of underground water levels. Keeping the soil surface adequately moist is a prerequisite for lush floral growth. Then again, the capacity of trees to absorb carbon gas spewed by ramshackle public transports gets diminished with their increasing absence.

So far as the much maligned traffic system in Dhaka is concerned, it will ever remain nightmarish if the corruption and manual management cannot be done away with. In Bangalore, traffic constables and sergeants are conspicuous by their almost total absence. Yes, in rush hours, the long line of vehicles come to a halt over a stretch of half or even more kilometers but then it vanishes automatically within minutes. The 1.1 million population of the metro agglomerate hardly suffers the ordeals on a daily basis like the Dhakaites.

Apart from the automatic traffic signals, as against the capricious hand signalling by Dhaka's  traffic sergeants, what makes the traffic system highly efficient is the sufficient state-run BMTC bus service. They are mostly in good condition and operate on precision schedules.

There are other areas of orderliness along with a few pitfalls as well. For example, the motorcycles and scooties (scooters) have found their explosive proliferation here. In Dhaka women and girls are still tentative to come out on their motorised two wheels, here in Bangalore they are least inhibited to do so. Like the motor bikers in Dhaka their counterparts here also overtake on the left side along the footpath but never ever do they encroach upon the space reserved for the pedestrians. Although in case of smaller distances they also drive on the wrong lane to be on the connecting roads or side streets.

So all this point to the fact that Dhaka's physical environment can be greatly improved by planting trees in their thousands and recovering the canals, the banks of which can have green covers without any break. The traffic system should be drastically automated to eliminate manual operation of traffic. But then the dilapidated buses have to be replaced by an eco-friendly fleet of efficient public buses preferably by the BRTC.


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