Whitefield rising and shining with citizen-led initiatives

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A movement called Whitefield Rising has been brewing in Whitefield in the last few months. Many residents, supported by a core group of experts in the field, have got together to make the streets of Whitefeild Rising cleaner and greener.

With the initial focus being the main road from Hope Farm to Kundanahalli, involved, excited and determined residents, teenagers and retired people are meeting on the streets and brainstorming.

A simple format is emerging:  1) Go for a walk as a group on the street near your house 2) Identify issues 3) Begin fixing. Residents can fix a lot, it turns out! 4) Learn to work with civic agencies to fix what residents cannot.

‘Spot-fixing’ proves to be a rewarding experience!

The first spot fixing happened on the 3rd week of September, led by the renowned and anonymous group `The Ugly Indians’, and one ugly black spot was transformed. Spot this location as you drive by between Ramagondanahalli Bus Stop and the Nandini milk booth on the opposite side of Palm Meadows. Anjali Saini, Arijit Mitra, Col Handa, Mamatha & Shripati Nilkar, Manish Kumar, Pradeep Konapoor, Anu Govind, Nagaraju Muppa, Hari Gowda and others started at 6 am and showed what a small but determined group of `doers’ can transform in a matter of three hours.

The street hawkers and residents of the nearby village were first puzzled, then charmed and finally converted into joining the movement! Seeing the resounding success of the first day, an impromptu decision was taken and the next spot fix was undertaken across the street to address the biggest ugly spot of that stretch – a massive heap of garbage on the sidewalk with open sewers around it.

Ramagondanahalli spot fix – September 2013

Seemingly impossible looking! The entire community that had adopted that stretch stepped forward supported by many around the area and once again, within hours the garbage heap was only a memory and a transformed space stood in front of their eyes. Not stopping there, the residents then went on to fix six such spots all within a short distance of each other thus making one stretch of the road visibly different and cleaner.

This charged up the residents in the vicinity and a long 300 ft long, 30 ft wide common access road in front of Prestige Ozone and Veracious Lansdale, Brigade Harmony and Chaitanya Armadale was taken up the following weekend. Led by Kiran Khanna and Sampa Chakraborty, the massive cleanup operation which saw several children coming out to support took more than 2 days to complete.

Brigade Harmony wall – before and after the cleaning initiative by Whitefield rising volunteers. Pic: Whitefield Rising

The road located in full view of the main areas in Whitefield had issues different from the one on the Ramagondanahalli stretch and that meant new thinking and creativity to solve the problems. The work involved initial clean up of the street and sidewalk, de-weeding, solid waste removal, defining the existing curb on either side of the 30 ft road, raising the level by adding sand, pavers, and painting the curb with yellow and black stripes. This place has seen a super transformation and is now a site for sore eyes.

Tree-planting drive

The following weekend on October 2, inspired by the success of the earlier two areas, Chaitanya Samarpan/ Smaran residents led by BWRWA’s Ananth, Venu, Shripati and Bala took on a tree planting drive along a long stretch of median in their stretch of the road. Scores of residents, children adding fun and frolic to the mixture with a bake sale thrown in for a charity worked hard over a weekend. Now numerous trees are growing to eventually create a tree-lined street for Whitefield.

This activity meant informed decisions were to be taken on which tree to plant and how to partner effectively with the local Panchayat. Again great learnings on how citizens can partner with the government and ultimately make their own area a better place to live. 

Next step is Sigma Tech Park, ITPL, Jagriti Rennaisance, Waterwoods, Laughing Waters and Regents Place. The residents in these communities are already planning how and what to address on their stretch. 

Ensuring the sustainability of efforts

So you may wonder how these areas will remain clean and why the black spots won’t come back. What stops people from throwing garbage back in these places?

  • This model has been proven across Bangalore through ‘The Ugly Indians’ work and shows that it can last if and only if residents are thorough with the follow up, understand the systems and build relationships with the local system around. One does not fix and then walk away. 
  • In Ramagondanahalli for instance, a sweeper has been appointed who takes care of the extra impact beyond what the BBMP sweeper does. Daily checks are in place with all vendors and residences that may be defaulting. Local leaders who use the streets actively have emerged and adopted the newly transformed spaces and are passionately guarding against regression.
  • Segregation if done well will help by bringing a lesser load of garbage on to our streets. To that end, Whitefield Rising is working on a novel way led by Sangeeta Venkatesh to get segregation going across all residents of the area.
  • Working with the local builders to both reduce the impact of their construction as well as positively seek their support in sponsoring the citizen efforts. For instance, DNR Constructions has already started fixing open chambers on the road with the promise for more. The Brigade Group coming up with a massive construction on the stretch has been similarly approached. Will they be models for other builder/citizen efforts? We are hopeful.

In all this, it has become apparent that the agencies we often point fingers at are best leveraged if we know how to work with them. BBMP officials especially Joint Commissioner Devaraju, Environment Engineer Vinayak, and Superintendent Engineer Gangadhar have been very actively working with the team. We have got immense support from BESCOM officials Jayanti (GM Customer Relations) and Ravindran (Assistant Engineer).

Rotary Bangalore IT Corridor Club is powering the Whitefield Rising movement. Rajeeb Roy, a visionary and successful entrepreneur in his own right and also the current president of RBITC, sees merit and magic in the movement and has been instrumental in unconditional support.

“You deserve the street you experience.” If we just took ownerships of one street with a group of neighbors, Whitefield will be transformed.

If you would like to own your own stretch and want help to get started, please write to  whitefieldrising@yahoo.com. The website www.whitefieldrising.org will be active soon.

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