" Trees are Earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven." ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Bangalore: Garden City or Future Tomb?

Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary and Cub magazines bemoans the decay of India's cities and towns because of environmental degradation.

I am fated to document the slow descent of India's cities and wildernesses into the depths of environmental decay. In the process of defending natural India I find myself constantly walking a tightrope between celebrating what remains of our natural heritage, and mourning what has been, or is being lost. I must regretfully accept that the constant battering my optimism has taken from that terrible caucus politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen has caused my vision to become jaundiced. Often therefore I find my self seeking solace in the company of children whose spirit and whose trust provides me with just that touch of energy to enable me to fight just that much harder... just that much longer. The young ones inspire me and provide me with the courage and purpose to fight my shortsighted generation that thinks so little of vandalising the heritage of their own children. It was their city that I visited recently for just a day and, true to form, my schizophrenia took charge to swing me pendulum-like from elation to despair.

More on Karnataka
An Overview

Beautiful Beasts
Paradise in the Wild
Childhood Dream
Hunt for Indian Tiger

Adventure activities
Rock Climbing
Scuba Diving

Leisure Holidays
Wild Life

I walked with friends through some of the less frequented trails that crisscross Bannerghatta and marvelled at the ability of nature to survive the onslaught of Homo sapiens. Just a few kilometres from the bustling city of Bangalore was a thriving ecosystem, alive with birdsong and throbbing to the rhythm of myriad insects. Frogs croaked from unseen wetlands, though the rains were still weeks away. The feel was distinctly jungle. I recalled the exquisite photographs of nesting owls in Bannerghatta, taken by TNA Perumal who is undoubtedly one of Bangalore's first citizens and thanked the stars for the hundreds of such individuals whose heart still beat to nature's drum.


At Bannerghatta I studiously avoided visiting the mini-zoo. I had no desire whatsoever to gawk at animals placed behind bars like so many criminals for absolutely no fault of their own other than the fact that they were not human. Privy to recent reports from the Central Zoo Authority criticising the management of the facility I was even more acutely aware than most of the appalling conditions that the animals were forced to tolerate. Elephants, for instance, are chained for excessive periods of time. And if there is one thing that breaks my heart it is the sight of an elephant, the spirit of freedom, chained.

What is there in the make up of humans that encourage us to be so utterly chauvinistic? Why do we so easily tolerate cruelty when it is directed against animals? I understand the problems faced by the officers that manage Bannerghatta. They have a shortage of funds. There are court cases that prevent them from accessing more land to spread the facility. And many members of the staff are not exactly high on motivation (I would hate to imagine how they take their frustration out on the animals when no one is watching). My question is: "Why incarcerate animals in concentration camp conditions in the first place?" Surely we can collectively find better ways to entertain ourselves? There are plans afoot to invest more over a crore into improving the condition of the animals in Bannerghatta by giving them larger enclosures and cleaner facilities. I suppose this is good news. Infinitely better would be a financial allocation to protect Bannerghatta's wilderness area. And if the funds are flowing, I might as well put in a claim for money to protect the city's crumbling heritage, its shaded side streets and its many tanks.


Earlier I had walked through Bangalores streets to gaze upon some of its magnificent old growth trees from which the song of barbets and koels emerged like ancient melodies to feed the soul. I also walked besides the Ulsoor tank and wondered at the ambience that must have once prevailed, when plastic bags and miscellaneous garbage did not dot its edges.

Frankly, for someone like myself who lives in Mumbai, Bangalore still presents a verdant visage. The problems we must contend with in Mumbai seem infinitely more serious. Our streets are noisier, dustier and hopelessly over-crowded. Garbage spills over footpaths on to arterial road, despite the best attempt of the Municipal Corporation to keep them clear. Our air is laden with lead and fumes from countless new and old private cars. Much of our food is poisoned with pesticides. Other than from the streams that originate in the forests of Borivli you cannot drink water from any source in Mumbai including kitchen taps without boiling and filtering it. All my life I had, however heard of this magical city called Bangalore, that was the quintessence of unblemished urban living. That dream died some years ago when a pestilence of development began to overtake commonsense and citizens of Bangalore began to sell their city to outsiders for 30 pieces of silver.


I can only guess at the angst that this must cause some of the older residents of Bangalore who have been forced to witness the rape of the city they love. Mrs. Susan Hiredia perhaps said it best: "It was a clean city with gardens all over. Everyone lived in a cottage or bungalow that invariably had a garden around. It was then that Bangalore could be called the "Garden City," unlike the mounds of garbage one finds on every road, street and lane of today." Ronnie Johnson, whose love for Bangalore prompted him to set up a home page on the internet devoted entirely to the city,echoes the sentiment:
"At times it brings tears to my eyes.. no, I am not talking about the pollution, that burns the eyes, I am talking about the way Bangalore is being raped! we must "Save Bangalore from the Bangaloreans!!"

Home | Back | Top | Feedback

Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.