Eyebrows were raised in collective amusement as a report by the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) last June ranked Bengaluru as the most livable city in India. For thousands of Bengalurians, trapped in traffic jams and tons of mud, it seemed like a sad joke. A year later, the harsh reality hit hard with a low global ranking on all things “liveable”.
Rated the least livable among the five cities that featured in the 2022 Global Quality of Living Index prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Bengaluru scored a modest 46.4. Delhi with 56.5, Mumbai with 54.4, Chennai and even Ahmedabad had better scores. Out of 173 global cities surveyed, the city was ranked 146.
Bangalore performed particularly poorly on ratings based on road quality, public transport, stability and healthcare. Only in terms of culture, environment and education were the scores relatively better.
The relentless load of vehicles has greatly stretched the city’s already inadequate road infrastructure. Attempts to transfer some road traffic to rail, including Namma metro and commuter rail, have been extremely slow. The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), with its fleet of no more than 6,000, has been stretched slightly.
The government has missed a golden opportunity to boost public transport, recalls Dattatreya Devare, a veteran legal activist and campaigner for a greener Bengaluru. “The Work from Home (WFH) period and the resulting reduction in travel demand has provided a very good opportunity. Many people worked from Tumakuru, Mandya and other places. It was time to support public transport, in order to control the proliferation of private vehicles. But they didn’t,” he recalls.
The city is now seeing a huge increase in the number of private vehicles, Devare points out. “Congestion is back on many roads. Forget fleet expansion, BMTC has run out of money to even pay salaries, commuter rail could have managed to pick up a load, but that didn’t happen either. They just let the situation drift and in the process the whole town is now full of SUVs and private cars.
Livability is measured based on factors that ensure quality of life: safety, mobility options, job and education opportunities, public space and political stability, notes Nikita Luke, senior associate health and road safety project at the World Resources Institute (WRI). ).
Equitable open spaces
Walkability, public transit, and equitable open and green spaces are key to improving a city’s quality of life, she argues. “In any city where life is good, the streets and neighborhoods are designed to encourage walking and cycling rather than driving. The road network is convenient for pedestrians, with low-speed zones, quality sidewalks and cycle paths. Homes, jobs, stores, schools and other everyday destinations are within easy walking distance of each other.
Ideally, in a city where life is good, we favor public transport and not the car. “Most mobility services and transit stations are within easy walking distance for residents. Transit stations are linked with first and last mile connectivity for easy and direct access, making it fast, cheap and convenient for users. »
Bangalore clearly lacks sufficient and equitable green spaces for children and adults. “Bengaluru must protect existing green spaces and resist new development opportunities that undermine them in order to ensure accessible, high-quality green spaces and recreational facilities for all residents,” says Nikita.
Giving another perspective on the livability index, ecological architect and urban thinker Sathyaprakash Varanasi explains: “Livability can be high if the infrastructure is already there, not at the time of its creation. The citizens are going through hell.
Urban aesthetics are also tied to livability, an area where Bengaluru is in decline. “Aesthetics is an expression of the human being, and wherever there is pleasing aesthetics, it means the mind is always happy. The kind of aesthetics we create is to advertise ourselves. Architecture n “It’s no longer there to appease the mind, but to provoke the mind here. So it’s become a city of provocation, speculation, competition. For me, these are definitely clues of unlivable,” notes Sathyaprakash .