Waste management and housing assistance make life more livable in the townships and slums outside Bangalore, India's information technology (IT) hub.
Bangalore, India - Gejjalagudde, a labyrinth of decrepit shanties, is Ramanagara district's worst slum. Just 50 kilometers (km) from India's IT hub of Bangalore, Gejjalagudde is a network of open drains, clogged with plastic and other solid waste, which overflows into the narrow lanes that smell of noxious sewage. There are not enough toilets. There is not enough water. There is not enough space.
"Since the toilets came, there is not just general cleanliness in the slum - the women have a sense of privacy."
But in the neighboring slum of Indiranagar, the 3,000-odd dwellers enjoy electricity, regulated water supply, and other municipal amenities, such as low-cost sanitation, underground drains, and wide driving lanes. It is a world away from Gejjalagudde and eight other declared slums in Ramanagara.
The contrast in living conditions is the result of the ADB-financed Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Project (1996-2001). The project is focused on providing efficient water supply and sanitation systems, solid-waste management, road improvements, and the construction of small-scale housing sites in the booming Bangalore hinterland of Karnataka State in southwest India.
The improvements have made a dramatic difference to the lives of many people in Indiranagar - especially the women who no longer face the indignity of living in an environment with no toilet facilities.
"Since the toilets came, there is not just general cleanliness in the slum - the women have a sense of privacy," says Khizar Pasha, a resident in Indiranagar.
Irrigating the fields
"Now the nearby villages have plenty of water for irrigating the paddy fields in the villages close to Tumkur, which does not have any natural water source."
Meanwhile, in Tumkur - about 80 km northwest of Bangalore - the ADB-financed project, facilitated by the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation, sought to expand the district's water supply and sewerage system. In 2004, the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board delivered 140 km of new water lines and a 185-km underground system of sewer lines along with a sewage treatment plant.
Today the town's waste water (24.75 million liters per day) is channeled to a treatment plant before it is diverted by canals for irrigation purposes, says board assistant executive engineer TN Muddurajannya.
At the treatment plant, sewer lines channel water into a massive above-ground tank. Here, a three-stage process to partially clean the town's polluted water begins. First, the water is chemically processed and treated. Then it is stored in a reservoir. From the reservoir, small canals help distribute the water to eight adjoining villages, where farmers use it for irrigation.
"It is true that the water is unfit for human use, but it is clean enough for cultivating crops," says Narayanappa, a local farmer, pointing to the acres of coconut plantations that the treated water irrigates.
Coconut, paddy, and bajra, or millet, are among the crops irrigated by the treated water.
Another farmer, Ramesh, says that water was a scarce commodity as recently as a decade ago. "But now there is plenty of water for irrigating the paddy fields in the villages close to Tumkur, which does not have any natural water source," he says.
Water for parched mouths
Clean drinking water was also in short supply in the Bangalore hinterland until not long ago, and the ADB assistance has helped build a water-generating system at TK Halli area, supplying Ramanagara and parts of Bangalore.
"People had to buy water after the Arkavathy River went dry in 1995. Now, with water being pumped out from TK Halli, the town's inhabitants are assured of a supply that, though still irregular, is definitely an improvement over the past," says retired Karnataka government employee and Ramanagara resident Dayananda M.
"Once the ADB loan was made available and the project completed in 2004, the district's population [about 250,000] had access to safe water to the extent of 120 liters per capita per day," says Muddurajannya, of the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board.
At the Tumkur Municipal Corporation, engineers are upbeat about the outcomes, especially the drinking-water supply system, which includes a huge above-ground tank partly funded by ADB in 2007-2008.
"The initial capacity of the tank was 500,000 liters, but after the bigger facility was built storage capacity has increased to 1 million liters, catering to the daily needs of more than 6,000 households in Someshwara and CSI Layout," said Vasanth PR, an engineer with the municipal corporation.
Housing in the heart of the boom
Another component of the project offered loans at affordable interest rates to promote home ownership and reduce the housing shortage in Bangalore. The funds in the second loan under the project went to the Housing Development Finance Corporation, with at least 50% of beneficiaries - 7,511 people - from low-income groups.
According to an independent evaluation, the project successfully reduced the housing shortage in the designated project towns and other locations in Karnataka; and improved the quality of life of the beneficiaries.
"Bangalore was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the country, and the center of India's high technology industries such as aerospace, software development, and computer hardware," says Hun Kim, country director for ADB's India Resident Mission. The project activities, he says, "have been instrumental in improving urban infrastructure and developing growth centers in six towns outside Bangalore," contributing to a reduced burden on the hub.
But there is more to be done.
In 2006, ADB approved a $270 million Urban Sector Investment Program to further ease the pressure on Bangalore. This ongoing project moves beyond basic infrastructure to create jobs, income, and growth outside the city.
According to ADB Urban Specialist Saugata Dasgupta, this is already happening. India's Ministry of Urban Affairs recently ranked project site Mysore as the second best Indian city in terms of sanitation. Mysore has also emerged as an alternative destination for the IT industry.
"Stakeholders give a lot of credit for this to the ADB projects," Dasgupta says.