Saturday, October 29, 2005

The City that was!

The City that was!
Deccan Herald

While New Bangalore struggles with its watery mess, old Bangaloreans are looking back at their good old town with a sense of nostalgia. The ‘City of lakes’, with 400-odd lakes and tanks, was a reality they lived three decades ago, when tank bed areas were mere ‘wetlands’, and not upmarket ‘layouts’. Fast-forward to the present miseries of overflowing drains, inundated houses and chaotic traffic, many old-timers and researchers believe that Bangalore’s biggest attractions have proved to be its worst undoing.

Areas near Puttenahalli Lake, like JP Nagar, that is now under three feet of water, was a picnic spot for retired industrialist Shiva Kumar, a Bangalorean for over 60 years.

“Jayanagar and surrounding areas were the greenest villages one could ever see, and even after heavy rains, they hardly showed any signs of flooding,” Kumar remembers.

Bommanahalli, one of the worst-hit areas after Tuesday’s deluge, was all lakes and vineyards and rose gardens for former Bangalore University professor Vimla Rao, who, used to drive her car in these areas 40 years ago.

Even areas around Millers Road, that now house the Ambedkar Bhavan, Mahaveer Jain Hospital and other corporate offices, was earlier Millers Tank, connecting to Sankey Tank. Sankey Tank’s overflow used to spill into Millers Tank. This area was made into a residential layout back in the 1930s, Kumar reveals.

Many lakes have been encroached, some auctioned and some others filled and made into layouts.

No wonder drains overflow, as there is no space for the water to drain, says Nataraj, a third-generation Basavanagudi resident, who has worked as a recordist for chief ministers since 1970.

Lessons to be learnt

“It is wild, and not wise, growth that has crumbled Bangalore,” points out Kumar. “The new layouts are not built according to standards of Malleswaram and Basavanagudi,” Kumar says.

According to Arun Prasad, Research Head of Discover Bangalore, the authorities can learn lessons on dynamism and patriotism from erstwhile rulers of ‘Bengaluru’.

When they ruled

“Kempe Gowda was a master planner, who planned in a way no present-day official can match,” Prasad says. As Arkavathy was the only river that ran through the outskirts of the City, Kempe Gowda began his township by erecting lakes like the Ulsoor, Dharmambudhi (presently Majestic Bus Stand), Kempambudhi Sampangi (presently Shree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium), Siddikatte (near City Market) and also a tank inside the Old Fort, which now lies in ruins. Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar, Haider Ali and his son Tipu Sultan also gave importance to the restoration of lakes and developed a comprehensive drainage system, Prasad says.

Bangalore, which used to be one of the cleanest and well-maintained cities in the country, has been made vulnerable to devastation.

Ironically, Bangalore’s strengths have turned into its weaknesses, due to faulty planning, he adds.


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