by Captain S. Prabhala IN (Retd)
Bangalore Environment Trust (BET) was officially registered as a Trust in 1987 but its activities started much earlier, in 1975, under the banner of Bangalore Green and Clean. It was entirely an initiative of Zafar Futehally, the renowned environmentalist. He had moved to Bangalore from Bombay in 1973 unable to bear the environmental degradation taking place due to rapid expansion and poor planning. With great prescience, Zafar saw that Bangalore too will soon lose the title of Garden City if steps were not taken to preserve its character and real estatedevelopers weregiven a free run.
The founding Trustees of BET included luminaries like Prof. S. Dhawan of Indian Institute of Science, Dr. V.Radhakrishnan of Raman Research Institute. Its objective was “To endeavor to achieve and consolidate the rightful position of the public in general to the services to which they are entitled to as citizens and to a healthy environment which is their due as human beings.” If haphazard planning that was becoming evident is not ended and development is not dovetailed into future plans, Bangalore would lose its charm.
From its early days, realizing that one cannot do without the Government, BET avoided confrontation with the authorities as a policy. Instead it believed in advocacy and persuasion. BET did not oppose development per se but stressed that development and conservation were two sides of the same coin. The enactment of Tree Act in 1976 was largely due to BET’s initiative. Similarly, BBMP Office Order in 2010 making transplantation of trees preferred choice was the result of successful demonstration by BET of transplantation of some trees on MG Road coming in the way of the Metro. In its entire history, BET had resorted to Public Interest Litigation on two occasions only.
Over the years, BET has taken up issues such as Noise Pollution, Pollution from vehicle exhausts, Traffic management and heavier penalties for traffic violations, strict enforcement of Building Bye laws, Preservation of Trees, Preservation of water bodies, Rain Water Harvesting and recycling and reuse of waste water, Solid Waste Management, encroachment of Storm Water Drains and Lakes, making the Tree Act (1976) more effective and Tree Transplantation as an alternative to felling of trees, Ecotherapy for Special Children, etc., with varying degrees of success.
Unfortunately, short term political and economic considerations outweighed ecological concerns and the result is evident: water scarcity, contaminated lakes, flooded streets and houses during rains, air pollution and traffic snarls.
Development is necessary but it should be sustainable. While meeting the needs of the present it should not deprive the future generations from meeting their own needs. Put differently, as the Red Indian saying goes: Air, water and soil are not a gift from our parents but a loan from our children.
Global warming is real and the Arctic is disappearing. The forces ranged against conservation of environment are powerful. It is all the more reason that we strive and do not yield.
From the PNLIT Diary: As novices in conservation, we sought advice from BET as far back as 2010. When BBMP rejuvenated the lake, we organized a public event on 24th April 2010 at South City to inform and involve the neighbourhood in nurturing the lake. Speaking at this Earth Day celebration, our Chief Guest Capt. Subbarao Prabhala, emphasized the importance of reviving the few existing lakes in the city and the need for the Resident Welfare Associations to assist the BBMP in maintaining them. Subsequently Mr. Zafar Futehally visited the lake a few times to see how the lake was coming back to life and to see the birds, especially the flock of Garganey Ducks, our exciting winter visitors of 2011.