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Bengaluru lake fire: What ‘smart cities’, Swacch Bharat, AMRUT, PM Modi? India unable to fix its cities

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Bellandur lake in Karnataka’s capital Bengaluru has now gone from foam to fire as toxic smoke choked the whole city. This is the third main instance when the lake caught fire and the authorities do not seem to have any clue on how to curb this menace triggered due to illegal dumping of debris. The lake is not the only water body in the world which has caught fire, but most of the previous cities have solved their issues. The moot question is if we are not well-equipped to handle our cities why are we dreaming and planning about smart cities? Meanwhile, are the popular schemes by PM Narendra Modi, like Swachh Bharat and AMRUT failing our cities? Why is India messing up cities like Bengaluru, Gurgaon, Noida and others, which have the potential to be our showcase cities?

Bengaluru, once a city well-known for its interconnected lake system, appears to be paying the price of development. Factories waste and general sewage have led to extreme levels of water pollution in how much ever lakes are left in the city. According to reports, the lake catches fire because of the phosphorus and oil on the surface. Now the city’s largest lake is spilling over because of the snowy froth filled with harmful chemicals. Residents have kept on knocking at the government’s doors due to the health issues they have been facing apart from the pungent smell all around, but clearly, adequate measures have not been taken. The lethargic attitude of the authorities has led some of the residents to take actions on their own as they believe that if the issue is not taken care of, the city will be unlivable soon.

Some of the residents claim that the problem at the lake has been present for more than two decades, but has only elevated due to urbanisation.Dear, PM Modi, we understand that every city is not your responsibility alone, but shouldn’t you take some steps when the basic character of cities are destroyed? More, so the technology capital of India, Bengaluru? In the name of development and urbanisation, we are clearly giving up on the environment and climate. At the same time, state authorities are the bigger culprit. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), or the Municipal Corporation in the city, is responsible in the region where the Bellandur lake falls in. Additionally, Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) is currently the custodian of the water body for its rejuvenation.

But BDA feels that there is no point in restoring a like if sewage water is not stopped to enter the lake. Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), meanwhile is in charge of diversion of sewage water, which clearly it has not been able to do. There is a strong need to strengthen our municipalities, not only financially but also incorporating, skilled individuals with integration plans.Plans and schemes such as AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) make no sense if it does not reap results in big cities like Bengaluru. With the way even the national capital, New Delhi has been witnessing pollution of all kinds, it won’t be long, till it finds itself among the list of unlivable cities.

There is no regulation on the buildings in Delhi NCR, as rampant illegal construction is on the rise. It is not that only the current AAP government in Delhi s responsible, as this is an area which has been witnessed in the past governments too, be it in the state or the centre. It is an undeniable fact that such situations will soon lead to a decline in investments, simply because no businesses will invest in unlivable cities. Fix your existing cities, PM Modi, before building new ones. And since, the cities ‘without-a-fix’ are the most urbanised places in the country, there is a look road ahead for the so-called smart cities too.

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