Traffic, water scarcity, now floods: slow death of India’s tech hub?

  • Most of Bengaluru has been submerged in the recent floods.
  • Residents forced to walk through waist-deep water
  • Disruptions call into question the city’s future as a tech hub
  • Officials vow to take action, but extreme weather could complicate plans

BENGALURU, Sep 15 (Reuters) – Harish Pullanoor spent his weekend trampling around the marshes and ponds of Yamalur in the late 1980s, which was then on the eastern edge of the Indian metropolis of Bengaluru, where his cousins ​​met with him. Used to engage in small water fishing. ,

In the 1990s, Bengaluru, once a civilized city of gardens, lakes and a cool climate, rapidly became India’s answer to Silicon Valley, which attracted millions of workers and the regional headquarters of some of the world’s largest IT companies .

The uncontrolled expansion came at a cost.

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Concrete turned green spaces and blocked canals connecting construction around the banks of the lakes, limiting the city’s ability to absorb and remove water.

India’s IT hub Bengaluru was flooded in early September due to the heaviest rains in decades

Last week, after the city’s heaviest rain in decades, the Yamalur neighborhood along with some other parts of Bengaluru was plunged into waist-deep water, disrupting the southern metropolis’s IT industry and denting its reputation.

Tired of gridlocked traffic and lack of water during the dry season, residents have long complained about the city’s infrastructure.

But floods during the monsoon have raised new questions about the sustainability of rapid urban development, especially if climate change causes weather patterns to become more uncertain and intense.

“It is very, very sad,” said Pullanoor, who was born close to Yamlur but now lives in the western city of Mumbai, parts of which also face sporadic flooding like many urban centers in India.

“The trees have disappeared. The parks have almost disappeared. There’s a traffic jam.”

Big businesses are also complaining about worsening disruptions, which they say could cost them tens of millions of dollars a day.

Bengaluru hosts more than 3,500 IT companies and some 79 “tech parks” – upmarket complexes with home offices and entertainment areas that cater to technology workers.

Passing through flooded highways last week, they struggled to reach the modern glass-fronted complexes in and around Yamalur, where multinationals including JP Morgan and Deloitte work alongside big Indian start-ups.

Millionaire entrepreneurs were among those forced to escape flooded living rooms and boggy bedrooms behind tractors.

Insurance companies said initial estimates of property damage were in lakhs of rupees, with the number expected to rise in the next few days.

‘Global impact’

The latest chaos sparked renewed concern from the $194 billion Indian IT services industry that is centered around the city.

KS Viswanathan, Vice President, National Association of Industry Lobby Group, said, “India is a technology hub for global enterprises, so any disruption here will have a global impact. Bangalore being an IT hub will be no exception.” Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM).

Bangalore was renamed as Bangalore in 2014.

NASSCOM is currently working to identify 15 new cities that can become software export hubs, said Viswanathan, who is spearheading the project.

“This is not a city-versus-city story,” he told Reuters. “We as a country do not want to miss out on revenue and business opportunities due to lack of infrastructure.”

Even before the flood, some business groups, including the Outer Ring Road Company Association (ORRCA), led by Intel executives (INTC.O)Goldman Sachs, Microsoft (msft.o) and Wipro (WIPR.NS)warned that inadequate infrastructure in Bengaluru could encourage companies to leave.

“We have been talking about these for years,” ORRCA general manager Krishna Kumar said last week about the infrastructure-related problems in Bengaluru. “We’ve come to a critical point now and all companies are on the same page.”

Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO) There are also major operations in Bangalore.

“The safety of all employees is always our top priority,” the company said in a statement. “While Thomson Reuters employees in Bangalore continue to work remotely during the recent floods, there has been no impact on our operations.”

In the early 1970s, more than 68% of Bengaluru was covered by vegetation.

According to an analysis by TV Ramachandra of the Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Bengaluru, by the end of the 1990s, the city’s green cover was reduced to about 45% and by 2021, less than 3% of its total area of ​​741 square kilometers.

Green spaces can help absorb and temporarily store storm water, helping to protect built-up areas.

“If this trend continues, by 2025, 98.5% (of the city) will be choked with concrete,” said Ramachandra, part of IISc’s Center for Ecological Sciences.

city ​​in decay

According to experts, rapid urban expansion, which often leads to illegal constructions without permission, has affected Bengaluru’s network of nearly 200 lakes and canals.

So when the city received heavy rains like last week, the drainage system is not working, especially in low-lying areas like Yamlur.

The state government of Karnataka, where Bengaluru is located, said last week that it would support 3 billion Indians to help manage the flood situation, including removing unauthorized development, improving drainage systems and controlling water levels in lakes. Rs (37.8 million) will be spent.

“All encroachments will be removed without any mercy,” Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai told reporters. “I will personally go and observe.”

The authorities have identified around 50 areas in Bengaluru that have been developed illegally. According to Tushar Girinath, chief commissioner of the civic authority of Bengaluru, these include high-end villas and apartments.

Last week, the state government also announced that it would set up a body to manage Bengaluru’s traffic and begin discussions on a new storm water drainage project along a major highway.

Critics called the initiative a knee-jerk reaction that could be undermining.

“Every time there is a flood, that’s when we discuss,” said IISc’s Ramachandra. “Bengaluru is rotting. It will die.”

($1 = 79.4130 Indian Rupees)

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Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal in New Delhi and Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Nandan Mandyam in Bengaluru; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principals.

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