|This pollution is choking the beating heart of Bangalore
||[Jun. 30th, 2009|11:03 pm]
Rainspotting in Bangalore
|"I am not against development", said the filmmaker I met with today. "Of course not.
"But the question we must ask ourselves is, development for whom, and at whose cost?"
Bangalore provides a good illustration of the complex outcomes of India's rampant and often uncharted growth. Back in the day, Bengaluru (its Indian name) was known as 'The Garden City'; an altitude of 3000 feet above sea level and numerous parks and lakes kept the climate cool and fresh while the rest of India sweltered. Maharajas and Rajas spent their summers here; the British favoured it as 'India without the scorching heat' and Winston Churchill whiled away some years growing roses and collecting butterflies. But a booming IT industry in the 1990's soon led to a new moniker - the 'Silicon City of India' - and brought with it a huge influx of immigrants and their associated trappings.
The advantages to this are many: the population is young, cosmopolitan and confident, the jobs are plenty and the nightlife is buzzing - at least up until curfew. But there are of course also many associate disadvantages: the usual polarisation of wealth that comes with sudden injections of capital, and a city infrastructure that is struggling to keep up with the demands of its fast-moving inhabitants.
It's most immediately noticeable in the traffic. And boy, does this place have traffic. Twenty-five thousand new cars come onto the roads every month, piling and dodging and blaring their horns on narrow roads that are not designed for such a large loads, and the smog is choking. Thirty years ago, there were no fans in Bangalore. But the thick pollution has raised the temperature of the city by several degrees, and a summer without fans is now unthinkable. Most buildings have air con. My eyes sting, my throat is sore. After dark, the gases dance in the headlights thick as dust. If a city's main roads are its arteries, it is surely this noxious clog that will lead to Bangalore's eventual heart attack.