As successive governments (both state and local) show little interest in revitalising the lost green cover in Bengaluru, the future of the city looks grim with temperatures rising, ground water tables depleting and urban flooding becoming a common occurrence. A recent RTI reply shows that in the last two years there have been no addition to the number of trees in Bengaluru due to government action. TNM has accessed the RTI reply by the Bangalore Development Authority which shows that it has not planted a single sapling for 2017-18 and in 2018-19.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahaangara Palike (BBMP) also had also stopped planting trees for the last two years after it was criticised for lack of transparency and low survivability of its saplings. Even the free sapling distribution by the tree bank run by the BBMP, started in 2017, has been called off.
All this, as citizen activists are crying foul over the call to further reduce green cover as trees are being felled on a daily basis for road widening, metro projects.
Satellite imagery, remote sensing data and analysis by scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) paint a frightening picture. There has been an 88% decline in green spaces from 1973 to 2017, while groundwater table has also witnessed a sharp decline along with the deterioration of air quality, reveals a study by IISc.
The study reads, â€śUrbanisation during 1973 to 2017 (1028% concretization or increase of paved surface) has telling influence on the natural resources such as decline in green spaces (88% decline in vegetation), wetlands (79% decline), higher air pollutants and sharp decline in groundwater table.â€ť
The study using multi-criteria decision-making techniques have predicted that by 2020, only a green cover of 2.96% will remain in Bengaluru compared to 45.77% in 1999. This would make the region greenhouse gas rich, water scarce, non-resilient and unlivable, depriving the city dwellers of clean air, water and environment.â€ťIt adds, â€śQuantification of number of trees in the region using remote sensing data with field census reveals that there are only 1.5 million trees to support Bangalore's population of 9.5 million, indicating one tree for every seven persons in the city. This is insufficient even to sequester respiratory carbon (ranges from 540-900 g per person per day).â€ť
Vijay Nishanth, an urban eco-conservationist, said, â€śThis shows why people donâ€™t believe the government when they say there will be compensatory forestation for big infrastructural projects like the steel bridge and elevated corridor. While there is enough money to spend thousands of crores on steel bridge, why canâ€™t Rs 5 crore be spent on planting trees. This city was made of trees, people used to come here for the good weather but now look how the weather has changed over the last few years alone.â€ť
He added, â€śWe can see how little importance the political class gives for the trees. For an entire city of Bengaluru, we only have 12 officers in the BBMP tree cell. We hear that tree cells of both the BDA and BBMP do not get the financial sanction to carry out their plantation programs. If the trees disappear like this, not only will there be no good weather but no rain also. The BBMP has been saying that it will start its tree census but we donâ€™t know when.â€ť