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What Bangalore simmers...

The months of March and April this year have brought with them a spell of unusually hot weather. While in several parts of the country this is indeed expected, it comes as a surprise to me (and many others) in Bangalore. I’ve witnessed only one summer in Bangalore so I cannot opine with same certitude as I would have about merciless summer months of Delhi; though discussing the matters with friends and acquaintances, who are veterans of many a summers here, hasn’t produced observations very different from my own – it feels lot warmer than what the norm in Bangalore is. The mornings are pleasant, just over 20 Celsius, with cool breeze sweeping and swooping from all directions; the amount of light outside being the only proof of presence of sun. With each passing hour, the sun grows both in incandescence and amount of heat dissipated, and by the time I begin my daily on-foot commute to office; it is already grueling hot if not scorching. I am a compulsive walker and heat usually does little to deter me from my jaunts, but the scalding climate of past few days, has made me either rethink or curtail my puny treks on several occasions. Warm mid-day breeze compounds matters further – no matter how adequate your fluid intake is, you feel drained out within moments; your throat parches with every single whiff of air you breathe in making you rue the moment you chose to “foot” it.

Karnataka has been battling drought for several years now and if grim realities of March are anything to judge by, the coming months will be arduous. The reasons for our plight are not hard to seek. I’ve seen countless apartment and office complexes sprout in Bangalore during my stay of last 18 months. Most of these buildings usually come up in areas where once stood quaint little houses with an elaborate garden plush with trees. The greed for space makes people do away with most trees while other are axed down pointlessly; like remnants of this tree that I came across by the road-side:

The ingredients used in construction of these buildings pose another problem. Most of these tall structures are frameworks of reinforced concrete covered on four sides with glass; both these materials not only radiate heat, they also lead to sharp increase in amount of energy required to keep the insides of the building cool. The environment unfriendliness of air-conditioning isn’t even a moot point.

Bangalore has been one of the greener cities of India, a direct consequence of which is the abundant dry foliage that the trees and plants generate each day. Unfortunately, it is dealt in a manner most damaging to environment – they are heaped in odd corners and set-ablaze. The fumes generated on burning dry plant waste are next in toxicity only to what you get on burning plastic. And if the cornucopia of green-house gases was not enough, this exercise leaves fine ashy soot which, thanks to the usually dry and windy conditions in Bangalore, finds it way into the ambient air in no time. Suspended particulate matter not only spells disaster for health, there is recent evidence that it could enhance the impact of green-house gases. Plant waste is best left on its own.

None of these problems are new or unique to Bangalore. The effect of progress on environment cannot be entirely eliminated though it can be mitigated to a large extent – partly by education and partly by legislation. Let me cite two simple examples – Educate peasants about ills of burning leaves (somewhere the municipal bodies might even need to enforce it) and make it mandatory for buildings to maintain “terrace gardens”. Now these might sound like a trivial measures but their impact on environment in long run is a tangible one.

posted: 18.4.04

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