BENGALURU: The Energy & Wetlands Research Group of the Indian Institute of Science has outlined an extremely worrisome scenario for Bengaluru, a city which is now understood to be oxygen-deficient due to lack of trees for the burgeoning population of over one crore. What makes it so worrisome is the fact that with this increasing oxygen-deficiency, which has been found to be caused due to lack of trees, the city has only a meagre 3.5 per cent population that is environmentally-literate.
Using remote sensing data from Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO’s) remote sensing satellites, Professor TV Ramachandra, coordinator of IISc’s Energy & Wetlands Research Group, has assessed the growth trend and concretisation of Bengaluru since the 1970s.
The dismal conclusion of the study is this, “Ideally, there must be seven to eight trees for one person. We have found that Bengaluru has 14,78,000 trees for a population of over one crore people. This means the ratio is the exact opposite. For every seven persons, there is just one tree,” he explained.
Part of the studies conducted by the group pointed at this scenario to have been the result of a whopping 128 per cent increase in the city’s concrete area due to rapid urbanisation. “From 1978 to 2017, there has been a 128 per cent increase in concrete area. We have lost 88 per cent of vegetation and water bodies in the city. At this rate, we can predict that by 2020, 94 per cent of Bengaluru will be made of concrete. The green cover is barely 7.5 per cent, as opposed to the recommended 33 per cent,” he said. “We are already facing an oxygen deficiency due to this. In the future, we will have to send our kids to school with an oxygen bottle along with a water bottle.”
The group’s study involved mapping the trees in a few wards of the city and extrapolating the results to the whole Bengaluru urban area.
He said the abuse of city’s lakes has been due to solid waste dumping, encroachment by apartments into the buffer zone and releasing of untreated sewage.
He has blamed the lack of environmental-literacy, poor architecture and concretisation for all the problems faced by the city. “Only 3.5 per cent of the city is environmentally-literate. This is one of the reasons we find citizens dumping solid waste in lakes. The methane generation in lakes sustains fires, as we see in the case of Bellandur and Varthur. This gets into the air we breathe. The fish in these water bodies and vegetables that grow near it, are also contaminated, and when consumed, can cause kidney failure,” he said.
As part of the Centre for Ecological Sciences Department at IISc, his team did a study on 5,000 people to test their awareness.
Ramachandra made these revelations at a talk he delivered — ‘Lessons of Unplanned Urbanisation: Bengaluru, a dying city (with burning and frothing lakes)’, at National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc campus.
The award-winning researcher also adds that the government and society must stop intimidation of researchers.
“I have been threatened many times for revealing the results of my work. Intimidation is not new to me, but we must protect researchers who are contributing to society,” he said.