While My City Gently Weeps
Updated: Apr 11
Reflections of an environment conservation evangelist and IT professional
It was the year 1977. I was on my first visit to Bengaluru (“Bangalore” back then) in August to visit my relatives. Train pulled into Cantonment railway station. With the excitement of reaching Bengaluru, I got off the train only to feel my jaws shivering due to the cold. Little did I realise that this city required a sweater year long due to the perennial cold and buildings did not require fans, let alone air conditioners. Fast forward to 2022, I didn’t even realise when the winter came and went in Bengaluru. Hum of air conditioners as you walk past buildings is common in this city that once boasted of its salubrious weather year round.
The IT industry's impact on a sleepy, clean and beautiful city of Bengaluru was swift. In the ensuing years the city struggled to keep up with the exponential growth in business activities around the IT industry and the housing and commuting needs that came with it. The use-and-throw lifestyle added a new dimension to this city’s problems, as it is now leaving piles of garbage in various parts of the city as authorities struggle to manage this burgeoning population.
The IT industry's impact on a sleepy, clean and beautiful city of Bengaluru was swift
When I started my IT career 3 decades ago, the buildings in Bengaluru were not climate controlled. We used to keep all the windows open that gave natural breeze and natural lights. The office facilities consumed far less energy than the office buildings of today. Most of us could not afford a car to commute to office and as a result we used public transport or two-wheeler. With traffic volumes being considerably less, the trees need not have to be cut to widen the roads. Less traffic exhaust means less hot air in the streets. There were not many high rise buildings those days. As a result, the famous breeze of Bengaluru, that used to sweep across the city perched high on top of the Deccan Plateau, never used to let the heat get trapped within the city.
The city’s architect Kempe Gowda never really designed it to grow so much. The pillars that he installed in four corners of the city to mark the end of the city, that he designed, now lies well within the city as the urban sprawl stretched far beyond its original location. Yes, Bengaluru was never designed to grow beyond those pillars!
The city’s architect Kempe Gowda never really designed it to grow so much
Any business activity exerts a lot of stress and strain to the ecology of the city. This stress and strain can be in the form of
vehicular traffic and the resulting drop in air quality
climate controlled buildings that blow hot air to the surroundings
Energy usage in the form of air conditioners, artificial lights, etc.
high rise buildings that trap the breeze, that otherwise freely seeps away the hot air
the excessive use of glass for façade that reflect the heat on to the surrounding, than a concrete, bricks or stones that absorb heat
cutting down the trees in the name of road widening, as more single occupant cars and SUVs jostle for precious road space
vanishing lakes and tree-cover due to a booming real estate business
disposable office specific waste like use-and-throw paper cups, cutlery, white board markers, etc.
When a city gives so many opportunities for business and professional growth and prosperity, we have a responsibility to look after the city’s health and well being. Seeing the widespread lack of awareness on the environmental issues faced by Bengaluru few colleagues and I started an initiative, back in 2010, to spread this awareness within my office. We reduced excess lights in the office, replaced use and throw plastic and paper cups with reusable mugs, replaced use and throw markers with refillable and reusable markers, replaced bottled water with water served in reusable jugs and planted trees around Bengaluru. These were small but important steps we took to ensure we do our bit to take care of Bengaluru, that gave us so much over the years.
“An advanced city is not one where the poor can get around by car, but one where even the rich use public transportation” former mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa
After seeing ambulances stuck in traffic gridlocks, I decided that I will not use my car for office commute anymore. Switching to public transport (bus and metro) for commuting was not easy, but over time I got used to it, and I consider it as the best decision I have ever made to help my beloved Bengaluru.
When a city gives so many opportunities for business and professional growth and prosperity, we have a responsibility to look after the city’s health and well being.
No doubt, there are other companies and individuals who are doing their bit to conserve the environment of Bengaluru. But a lot more needs to be done to bring back a semblance of the old charm of Bengaluru. As I go through the autumn of my corporate life, I wanted to share these thoughts so that while we march on with our business and professional goals and targets, lest we fail to hear cities like Bengaluru gently weeping.