Mangalore in the 80s was a small town. Folks from big cities even described it as a village masquerading as a town. It was known for its excellent educational institutions. As my schoolmate, Ajay Kamath, said recently, “The thing with Mangalore is that people left the place, for greener and other pastures”. So people left. However, things changed as India started to ‘develop’ and in the last few years, Mangalore has begun to grow exponentially.
First was the exponential rise in land or real estate cost, and then the tall apartment complexes came. Thankfully, roads were concreted and hence motorable, despite the region’s heavy rainfall. Highways to and from Mangalore are widened and getting widened. Whenever roads widen, it appreciates the land price and brings tremendous change in the landscape. Beautiful laterite, tiles, mud architecture has given way to the ubiquitous concrete and glass buildings. The landscape specific/suited architecture remains in the old houses and The Heritage village of Manipal. The Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts are beautiful. A friend, when you fly into Mangalore, all you see is a green cover. The hills around Mangalore absorb rainwater, act like sponges and let out the water in springs almost all year round. People, however, are cutting those hills, levelling them to build commercial spaces, plant exotic Mexican grass. As a result, springs dry up, bore wells get drilled, and destruction follows. Several rivers join the Arabian sea through Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. In the 70s and 80s, the rivers used to flood and not the town. River flooding brings fertile soil onto the flood plains. Now the rivers hardly flood because many are dammed upstream, city floods because it’s covered in concrete and drowning in garbage. Many dam projects upstream are impacting the deltas as well. The garbage dumping ground in a densely populated place Vamanjoor is causing health hazards. This mountain of garbage soaked the rainwater and collapsed on a beautiful agrarian village called Mandara a couple of years ago and made it uninhabitable.
My prediction is that the Mangalore-Udupi/Manipal-Puttur region will become a mega metropolitan area within a few years. And we are ill-equipped to handle that transition, as we have seen in Bangalore. The government of Karnataka has announced today a package of Rs.10000 crores (USD 1.3 billion) for the development of urban areas of the state. 60% of this is for Bangalore city, and the balance is for the rest of the state. This allocation is for the next five years. However, we need to understand that throwing large amounts of money isn’t a solution to our problems. It needs to be well spent, and we need to ensure that it does not get siphoned off. And there is an urgent need to get talented people in the government, and politicians need to let them function.
The question is about the destiny of all Indian cities? have we lost the vision? Are we just lining them outside the slaughterhouse?