It is well known that our city does not have a single administrative entity that is willing to look at all the problems facing it. That is certainly a matter of concern that will probably need much looking into and a solution at the policy level. Meanwhile, there appear to be several manageable aspects at a micro-level that we as citizens, particularly those of us belonging to the middle class and above, have forgotten. These are responsibilities that we need to take on ourselves if the lessons from the recent floods are not to be discarded.
Our public transport system is in a shambles, the only consolation being that it is probably better than those in other Indian cities. Rather than fight for a better service, we have gone ahead fixing up our own private transport systems – cars and two-wheelers – that clog roads that were never meant for so many vehicles in the first place. We are 10 per cent of the total population at most and yet we have managed to get an inordinate amount of road space – most road schemes today cater to the car user. Why cannot we fight for better public transport that all of us can use and enjoy?
Our power scenario, especially when it comes to transmission and distribution is bad, with a high percentage of loss. To overcome this, all of us have inverters and generators, thereby setting up our own power systems, rather than demanding better service from the agency that is responsible for it and for whose services we pay. The same goes for water – we have silently witnessed and actively connived in the whittling down of our water sources. Many of our houses do not implement rainwater harvesting schemes. And new buildings are now constructed with such high plinths that all the surface water runs off on to the road where it ceases to be our responsibility. The reason for the high plinth is that road levels keep rising. Rather than question that malpractice, we have been happy enough to contribute to it.
Our city’s civic body does not have an effectively plan for segregating garbage at source. Therefore, we too do not separate it at home. We are quite happy to send our rubbish out, from where it journeys to the two big landfills in our city and forgotten thereafter. Studies have shown that if segregation was done at home, with food wastes being composted and recyclable wastes being sent to agencies that deal with them, what is left would be a miniscule percentage of what is now being churned out. That by itself would solve much of our garbage problems.
How many of us know the names of our ward councillors and how many of us would like to meet up with them? Perhaps that is why there is no accountability. Yes, dealing with Government agencies is no fun and can be time-consuming, but it has to be done. In building our individual homes and gated communities, we have been happy to exist in cocoons, with no care for our environment. The recent floods have shown that we as citizens can rise to the occasion. Why can we not do this on a day to day basis? Can we begin reclaiming our city and our civic rights? Unless we do this, there is no way that our quality of life is going to improve. Perhaps our resolution for 2016 ought to be this. And unlike most New Year resolutions, let us hope we do not forget it after a while. We do not want another flood to remind us of our responsibilities, do we?