Green spaces and their significance
Bangalore has a history on valuing its local agroecology. There are two versions of how the city got its name. One refers to Bengaluru as a place with abundant local tree species - ‘benga’ (Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb.) or Malabar kino, which is evident even today's Bangalore. Another story relates the city's name to its founder. In the early 1500s, Kempegowda reached the northern part of the current city and was offered boiled beans or "benda" (Kannada), the then predominant local pulse produce. Interestingly, both the stories links Bangalore's origins to its agro-ecology. Later, when the town was developed by Kempegowda during the 1600s, he built a fort in the center with a boundary wall having four gates. Center of the fort housed separate pete or marketplaces, each for a specific agricultural commodity (e.g. 'arale pete' for cotton; 'akki pete' for rice, 'bale pete' for banana and so on).
The produce marketed in these markets mostly came from surrounding areas that were dotted with forests, agricultural fields, and water tanks. During the 18th Century, sprawling ornamental gardens and fruit orchards were developed by the then Mughal ruler. Private gardens of the king had vegetables, fruits, tubers, and flowering trees. Later in the 19th century, another habitation emerged parallel to the fort and pete area. This was was known as the Civil and Military Station, housing British military and administrative officials. These spaces had sprawling manicured gardens with exotic plants, mostly of colorful flowers. Thus, Bangalore developed as a bi-nucleated town with two separate administrations growing side-by-side. One, the older one, was characterised by a traditional pattern of crops and wild forests, whereas the more recent one was highly maintained with greater importance to aesthetics.
Figure 1: Growth of Bangalore between 1537 till 2015 (Source: Teja Malladi, Geospatial Lab, Indian Institute for Human Settlements)
Green spaces and their significance
Even today, some of the earliest established residential layouts in Bangalore have relatively larger plots with open spaces in the front and back of the houses. These open spaces always had fruiting trees like jackfruit, mango, sapota, guava, coconut and gooseberry, multiple vegetables, and many flowering plants. The garden either in the front or back of the house was an essential part of the house and provided food, aesthetic, and religious purposes.
Bangalore was known as ‘Garden City of India’ due to its vast green cover and fauna. The city enjoyed a salubrious climate throughout the year. The city was also known for its water bodies that were designed to be cascading chain of manmade tanks along the gradient, ensuring that water overflow from higher tanks would fill water bodies at lower altitudes, minimising water wastage. Water from these man-made lakes was used to grow food crops and maintain gardens. However, in the past few decades, Bangalore has seen unprecedented growth in builtup area and population. This burgeoning growth has taken a toll on green spaces in the city. Many old, sprawling single-story houses have transformed either into smaller housing plots or multi-story congested apartment buildings. Vegetation cover in Bangalore has significantly shrunk giving way to the built infrastructure. Built-up area increased from 7.9% in 1973 to 58.3% in 2012. During this period there were some key events that caused the surge in population numbers in the city. Between the 1970s and 1990s, establishment of large public sector units and private manufacturing industries provided large-scale economic opportunities within the city. Post-1990s, the growth and establishment of IT industries, gave birth to Bangalore's new identity of the 'Silicon Valley of India', with the city witnessing large-scale inmigration from within and beyond the country.
Figure 2: A visual comparison of Bangalore's expanding built-up areas between the years 2011 and 2020. (Source: Teja Malladi, Geospatial Lab, Indian Institute for Human Settlements)
Figure 3: Population growth in Bangalore between 1971 till 2015