SHIVAMOGGA: If the other six ‘Smart Cities’ of Karnataka have failed to utilise Central funds to turn smart, Shivamogga city — considered malenada hebbagilu (the gateway to Malnad) — too has faltered at every step to become smart. Not even 15% of the total works under the Smart City Project have been implemented. As a result, the city has badly missed the ‘development bus’ in the last three years.
Standing on the banks of Tunga, Shivamogga city is surrounded on the outskirts by enchanting natural beauty, But, the city has lost its verdant look and seems bereft and forlorn. Further, most of the infrastructure projects that were launched during B S Yeddyurappa’s tenure as CM have either been shelved or remain incomplete and forgotten.
As we proceed on Sagar-Shivamogga Road towards the city, one can see the total loss of tree cover while steel and concrete structures dazzle in the unbelievable heat — a mute testimony to unsustainable development. Further down, in the middle of the city, the Tunga, once known for its sweet taste, flows sluggishly as it receives the city’s sewage.Bemoans an old-time resident Guru, “Tunga pana and Ganga snana are all just a dream now as over the years no effort has been made to put in place a proper sewage system. Not only have we lost our green cover, but even the river has turned into a sewage canal.”
As we criss-cross the city, we see that along most of the main roads the tree cover has vanished. Also, residential colonies have a hot and desert-like look as a resident of Vidyanagar, Somya says, “A decade ago, it was green, cool and used to rain a lot. But nowadays, the summers are unbearable and we have started using air-conditioners.”
According to Susheela (name changed), a former member of city corporation, Yeddyurappa’s dream of making Shivamogga a “model district” has remained a dream despite investment of crores. He had said a CM should improve his/her own district which will lead to the overall development of the state. After his exit, most projects lost track and the ring road project stayed on paper, she adds. Currently, a 16-km ring road exists, while an additional one of 40 km is in the pipeline. This was proposed during 2008, but did not take off. “This time around, Yeddyurappa has promised to take up the new ring road work, if his party comes to power,” Somya adds.
Growth beyond capacity
However, in terms of development of other sectors, including medical care and education, the city has done well. Presently, it has 150 nursing homes, while government hospitals have been upgraded. Further, the city has two medical colleges and has added another engineering college to the existing one.
In the last 5-7 years, the city has developed beyond its capacity. Most of them are revenue layouts with no water connection, no sewage system and no roads.
According to urban expert Satish Rao, “The problem with this city is that it has no proper gradient so time and again, sewage flows back to the house from the drains. The less said the better about new colonies they have no drainage or sanitation system How will the elected representatives address the sewage problem in the absence of a drainage system?”
A Polluted River
The sight of the Tunga river being defiled is unbearable as one is hit by the stench with sewage flowing into it without purification. A few months ago, the city corporation claimed that 99% of the work was complete to treat the sewage, but maybe all on paper.According to many, the Tunga riverfront project may destroy the river. A local environmentalist adds, “The riverfront project is more of a real estate and money-making project as the river bank has under gone heavy concreting works and will house walkways, hotels, restaurants, plazas and what not - ultimately killing the natural riverine ecology.”
Under the Smart City project, Shivamogga city has an allocation of `200 crore each year from the Centre, but it has spent only `6.5 crore. In fact, crores of rupees were spent to build a wall in the river and also a heritage walking path next to the Shivappa Naik’s Palace.As part of the Swabiman Andolan campaign to spread green through seed balls, a member adds, “We asked for a separate line for sewage followed by its purification before releasing the water into the Tunga. But nothing happened. The last five years, nothing much has happened. A few roads were tarred, drinking water facilities were set up followed by auto and tempo stands. Only in the last 4-5 months, money was released and works done superficially to show it to the voters.”
Shivamogga has two seats - Shimoga city and the reserved seat of Shimoga Rural. In Shimoga city, a Muslim-Brahmin dominated seat, it is a straight fight between BJP’s K S Eshwarappa and K B Prasanna Kumar (a Brahmin), the sitting Congress MLA.While in the rural seat, it will be a triangular fight between Ashok Naik (BJP), Dr Sreenivas Kariyanna (Cong) and sitting MLA Sharada Puryanaik (JD-S).
However, BJP is making all out efforts to capture these two seats. To strengthen the faction-ridden state BJP unit, RSS swayamsevaks have been working overtime to consolidate and also ensure that the party does not deviate from its basic Hindutva ideology to come to power.
A BJP party worker opines, “The last 10 days are crucial and that is when the RSS workers do door-to-door campaigning and that will work in favour of our candidates like in Gujarat. If the BJP has to form the government in Karnataka under Yeddyurappa, we have to win from Shivamogga.” This is easier said than done, says an independent observer Shyam Sundar says, “Money is freely flowing in both the seats with each voter being paid anywhere between ` 2000 and `3,500. It is a 50:50 scenario and anybody could win in the city.
The Tunga and many irrigation canals passing through Shivamogga city and lakes are subjected to direct discharge of sewage and solid waste. In fact, 90% of the sewage and solid wastes are discharged into the river. This has caused irreparable damage to the river ecosystem. The smart project aims to recycle the sewage and reuse the treated waste water to landscape the riverfront development and river rejuvenation. And of course, build a smart and heritage complex on the riverfront.