Bengalureans often reminisce about the garden city that Bengaluru used to be 40-50 years ago, and how it has now turned into a garbage city. Despite the city facing other challenges now, like the Covid-19 pandemic and an economic crisis, Bengalureans have not stopped prioritizing environmental concerns.
In fact, one of the first things many urbanites noticed as lockdown was imposed was how the environment started to look and feel instantly cleaner - in terms of air and water quality, returning biodiversity, etc.
The average Bengalurean would agree that environmental challenges are among the top challenges facing the city and the world, and this city is also well known for its many citizen groups who have started environmental campaigns that gained national level attention and importance in areas of waste management, infrastructure, lakes, decentralized governance, etc.
The question that rises here is whether Bengaluru now is ready to be a national leader again, and launch a city level comprehensive sustainability and climate action plan.
Members from the Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC) think so. B.PAC is a nonpartisan and nonprofit citizens' group that seeks to improve governance and quality of life in Bengaluru. It recently launched an initiative called the Bengaluru Sustainability Manifesto.
The Manifesto sets a bold vision for a more green, sustainable, and resilient Bengaluru in 2030. Among the key asks in the Manifesto document are a demand for a city -level Bengaluru Department of Sustainability with built in expertise, accountability, and transparency to drive city scale change in Bengaluru.
Apart from this, it also demands to launch a comprehensive Bengaluru Sustainability and Climate Action master plan, in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, India's Paris Climate agreement, and other relevant national and state sustainability commitments.
CEO of B.PAC, Revathy Ashok, said "A lot of great work is already being done in Bengaluru towards a more sustainable city, but all efforts need to be integrated and scaled with a comprehensive vision in mind. Bengaluru also needs city level leadership and resources to accomplish this much needed intervention. This is the gap that the Manifesto intends to fill. We welcome all feedback and collaboration in this endeavor."
So far, B.PAC has developed the Manifesto with inputs from experts and citizens, and has launched a citizen survey in English and Kannada to receive further feedback on the future Bengalureans envision for 2030.
They have also started to collect endorsements from Bangalorean businesses and influencers - like the Bangalore Apartment Federation, Saahas Zero Waste, Bare Necessities, and the musician Ricky Kej.
In addition to building support, B.PAC also says that collaborations and research are underway to develop tangible short and long term projects to submit as recommendations to BBMP and Government of Karnataka to include in policymaking and the next annual budgets.
The B.PAC program coordinator leading this initiative, Sumedha Rao, says, "We believe that Bengaluru can and should become the greenest mega city in India and the world, but it will take a lot of collaboration and hard work to get there. We are proposing a combination of direct top down advocacy for informed decision making as well as building grassroots support to achieve this. This is a long term project, but together with our excellent partners, we hope we can start accelerating the pace of change in the immediate future."
She added that due to the population size and above average consumption, cities are both causes and victims of climate change and environmental catastrophes.
Further, she said "The UN says that cities occupy only 2% of the earth's surface but contribute to over 70% of resource use and emissions. At the same time, the urban poor are often the victims of unsustainable byproducts that come from a city's development. The environment versus development debate needs to end, and cities must find a sustainable way of advancing economic development in a environmentally and socially responsible way".
The IPCC released a report last year that stated that humankind has less than 10 years to address climate change and prevent irreversible damage. COVID-19 related lockdowns globally may have slowed emissions initially, but experts say that unless upcoming economic stimuli continue and increase investments in clean energy and sustainability, this deadline for climate action may come sooner.
B.PAC is optimistic that with the support of the city, this initiative can become an effective long term solution for Bengaluru and a example for other cities to follow. Readers can read more about the Bengaluru Sustainability Manifesto and provide feedback here.