Yelahanka's rapid growth is at the cost of its heritage buildings, trees and lung spaces. What used to be a peaceful locality is now turning into another copy of Bengaluru
Back in the early 1980s, against the advice of our friends and relatives in Bangalore, we moved to Yelahanka Satellite Town in the hope of living in peace, fed up of Bangalore's pollution. We compromised a lot for this, putting up with the poor construction quality of KHB, lack of some basic facilities, and distance from city's old airport and culture hubs.
Many trees were cut down to accommodate this BBMP office in Yelahanka Satellite Town 1st phase Pic: Sudha Narasimhachar
But we were happy the way our layout was planned with lovely parks, and amenities like bus stands, shopping complexes and hospitals around; above all there was a peace-loving crowd.
Our happiness was short-lived. Gradually shops started cropping up in front of every other house. Many shops had no sanitation facility and the people manning them were forced to use vacant plots or even the walls in front of their shops to urinate. Even the small LIG (Low Income Group) house-owners started adding extra floors atop their houses or building shops in front.
Hitherto calm roads like the 1st main road and the Mother Dairy Cross Road became bustling commercial streets and land prices sky-rocketed, especially after the new airport was inaugurated. Traffic is now 60-70 times as that of the 1980s. Student population has multiplied and so has the number of noisy motorbikes on roads.
"Oh! Yelahanka Satellite Town has developed so much", comment our friends and relatives seeing
supermarkets, ATMs, and the traffic. But we were happier with our small retailers who supplied fresh materials and served us better than the huge chain stores. We ran away from the same so-called development. But the city has caught up fast with us, leaving no inch of space vacant in between Gangenahalli and Devanahalli on one side and Doddaballapur on the other.
Resorts, offices and above all, multi-storied apartments are mushrooming all along the highway and around Yelahanka. Earlier we used to drive along the highway, watching green fields and silhouettes of trees against the setting sun after a tiring day in the city. But now 80 percent of that greenery is replaced by concrete structures and we drive covering our noses to avoid the dusty, polluted air. The journey from Mekhri Circle to Yelahanka Satellite Town, which earlier used to take hardly 15 minutes, now takes even 45 minutes!
Despite all these, we preferred Yelahanka to the central city area because of its many beautiful, well-maintained BBMP parks and many trees lining its roads and houses.
But no, this would not last either. The lovely old brick factory at the entrance of Yelahanka, which was a majestic landmark, has been demolished to give way to a huge mall! People who have experienced traffic woes after the inauguration of the Mantri Mall in Malleshwaram and Forum Mall in Koramangala can imagine what our plight would be once the mall is completed!
A park in Yelahanka maintained by BBMP Pic: Sudha Narasimhachar
Worse, BBMP is now felling the same trees that it had planted earlier, in the name of development. And to KHB every vacant plot means gold. Why would they bother about trees that lose their lives? Scores of well-grown trees were felled to accommodate a BBMP office.
Now, a huge lung space with 50-60 trees just behind the Sharavathi bus-stop has earned KHB's attention. Preparations are on to say good-bye to these trees. Soil has already been tested. Long ago, I had heard this space was meant for construction of an apartment complex for NRIs.
I no longer feel like living in this locality and this city, where the government and planners have no second thoughts about destroying nature just to help the rich and mighty drive in their A/C vehicles on barren roads; never mind the people who have to walk or wait for public transport and get roasted in increasing summer temperatures.
Seeing hundreds of trees earmarked to be killed shortly all along Palace Road, Bellary Road, Sankey Road and CV Raman Avenue, I feel things have gone way beyond anyone's control. We can only reminisce about the golden past, when Bangalore used to be a Garden City with great climate.
Maybe that golden age itself marked the beginning of her destruction, because nobody who came here ever wanted to go back. It is high time the few locals who could ever live only here, give up and get out of this city which is fast being turned into a garbage-filled concrete jungle.