Monday, November 09, 2009

They are worried about random growth. Are you?

They are worried about random growth. Are you?

Jalaja Ramanunni

Are we sacrificing long-term necessities for short-term benefits?
Justice Saldanha: The rate at which the green cover is going is distressing. This destruction is avoidable. It is an unnecessary and unpardonable act motivated by corruption. Trees, with a timber value of Rs8 lakh to Rs20 lakh, are being cut and auctioned for Rs2,000. Now we know why the green cover is going. A sum of Rs16,000 crore was marked for the Metro. Of this, Rs12,000 crore has been spent even though only 7% of the work has been completed. Lokayukta tracked some of the engineers involved with the project and found one junior engineer in possession of Rs18 crore. People think the government is being irresponsible. But the government has it all planned out. Others had proposed ideas for the Metro and monorail projects that did not involve the felling of trees. But they were scrapped for irrelevant reasons. We have got corrupt organisations that are hell-bent on destroying this beautiful city. The judiciary still can stop them.
Anant Iyer: Development is necessary. But this can easily be done in an eco-friendly manner, which the government prefers to overlook. Karnataka is one of the few states that have been blessed with forests, but this scene is slowly changing. It is all a business at the end of the day. It is sad because our temperature gradient is rising and the lands once filled with bungalows surrounded by trees are being converted into buildings and apartment complexes in the name of development. Bangalore had about 200-odd lakes. Today, there are less than a 100. Kanteerava stadium was a lake before, and what was once Miller's Lake, is now occupied by IT companies and hospitals.
Krishna Byregowda:In the last one year, no fewer than 20,000 trees have been planted and over Rs30 crore has been spent for improvement of lakes. There is no doubt that we are making blunders due to ignorance and corruption. But that is not what drives the authorities. There are other aspects to be considered. We have adopted a system of market economy. As we create, we destroy something. People talk about using public transport, but want cars for themselves. They want others to make sacrifices but are not willing to give up their luxuries. It is human nature to have aspirations. There is a section of society that wants basic infrastructure, connectivity, roads, water and sanitation. If this is not provided, everyone, including the media, will say you are a failure. Basic necessities like electricity, water, and stormwater drains thus gain priority over the need for green cover.
Leo Saldana:Widening the roads is a short-term solution, an unnecessary development. This, as a solution, was debunked by the government 60 years ago. Sheshadhri Rd is a good example of corruption and planning. Roads are not something you push past buildings. It is the first public representation of a city. Roads that are being widened should follow the comprehensive plans of the city, but all roads being widened are illegal.
Ashwath Narayan:The city's population is growing at a faster rate than its development. The reason for this haphazard growth is mainly due to policies formulated by planning agencies. The city has six planning agencies such as BMRDA and BDA, and there is no coordination between them. They never think of a well-planned integrated development.
Is widening of roads a necessary step for trafficmanagement?
Anant Iyer: Even London and New York do not have 300-400 feet roads. It was a pointless move taken by our authorities. Traffic management can cure traffic problems. Even Italy has many two-wheelers. But they have managed their roads well. We are all aware that there are wheels within wheels. Unfortunately, that is how our system works.
Justice Saldanha: There was no need for three-track roads in Central Bangalore, for which many trees have been cut. Proper traffic management can solve most of the traffic problems we face. Trees were cut due to pressure from the timber mafia. Bangalore has never lost its green cover the way it is being done now. About 14,000 trees have been cut in the past one year alone. We are depleting the green cover in the state at 38% per year. This way, in a few years, Karnataka will become a desert unless corrective measures are taken.
Krishna Byregowda:The excessive importance given to green cover at the cost of other aspects of environment is an injustice to the ecosystem itself. Temperature increase has also got to do with increase in population and vehicles. There are other aspects of environment we are not talking about, which require attention. In Delhi, it is mandatory for all commercial vehicles to use an alternative fuel, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). If people are really concerned about pollution levels in Bangalore, why do not they start using CNG? Everyone says road widening is not the only solution, but it was a necessary step. Traffic congestion occurs at some key points and corrective measures have to be taken immediately. Legislators are being questioned and blamed although they have nothing to do with the situation.
Are the authorities listening to what Bangaloreans have to say?
Justice Saldanha:Many environmental organisations have approached the high court and 167 PILs have been filed. But not a single one of them has been entertained by the judiciary which is supposed to listen to citizens' voice. Instead, judges assume that PILs are filed when these bodies have nothing else to do. From my experience, I know that not more than 2-3% of PILs are frivolous. The judiciary should listen to them, go to the experts, apply their minds, and see to it that something worthwhile turns up.
Anant Iyer:People have protested against the insanity that goes on in the name of Metro. Many administration officials have openly said that ripping off greenery was unnecessary but nothing has been done to stop it. The government is now turning to the defence department for some land, saying the city is getting choked. Not one foot of land should be given to them as that is the only greenery left. If the land was owned by someone else, the greenery would have disappeared long back.
Leo Saldana:At least 20 to 30 active members of various organisations, including architects, lawyers and planners, had approached the then (BBMP) commissioner S Subramanya to provide solutions to a problem. He asked us to meet him one at a time at a panel discussion. When we told him he was bound to listen to us because we were the ones providing him an office, he threw us out with a stern warning. People who have been elected, have absolutely no business to sit in administration if they do not listen to the public.
Ashwath Narayan: People are making so much noise about the chopping down of 10,000 trees. At least 10 lakh trees will be chopped for Kempe Gowda Layout. And this is a demand from the public. People will question us that while so many layouts were formed during SM Krishna's tenure as chief minister, what is BS Yeddyurappa's government doing now? If you look at the population of Bangalore, we should have four metros like Shanghai. This problem is part of the market dynamics when a city grows. An integrated system has to be in place..
What can be done to sustain the existing green cover and increase awareness?
Justice Saldanha:Media has taken up these issues strongly and they should work towards galvanising a strong public opinion. The judiciary is very sensitive to public opinion and the manner in which the judiciary has let us down must be highlighted in the media. When the decision about the Metro construction was taken, I held a press conferences and contacted the media to bring out this injustice into the open. However, nothing was uncovered. We believe the media speaks for the people, and should not try to conceal any type of information.
Anant Iyer:When the Race Course is shifted, the area can be converted into another Cubbon park as the city is in grave need of it. Central Park is the lung space of Manhattan and nobody fools around with it. Strict laws should be enforced so nobody attacks our green.
Krishna Byregowda:It is easy to point fingers at the government and say they are responsible. But people play an important role in traffic management. We use roads routinely and break laws. We do not understand what lane discipline is, people should start doing their bit in contributing to a healthy city. Instead of always criticising the government, the media should also learn to appreciate the little good things the authorities do.
Leo Saldana:Certainly, people should be informed about their rights. When we told people that we are holding a protest against the way in which the Metro was being built and the roads were being widened, there was a lot of participation. Middle-class Bangalore were more laidback and it was the poor who came out to protest. They were there the next morning because we told them their fundamental rights were taken away. The trees on KR Road are their homes, they were told. If the media can adopt this approach, I'm sure everyone in the city will get involved and we can hope for a change.
Sharmila Mandre:Dubai is an absolute concrete jungle because of the way it has developed. There's no doubt that Bangalore is on its way there. Since the administration is corrupt anyway, we citizens should start doing something about it. Only a small percentage of people are actively participating in environment conservation. Everyone should make a conscious effort. For every tree cut, we should plant another.
Ashwath Narayan:We have provided voluntary organisations with one crore saplings. The entire society should gear up and participate in saving the earth for the future. Monsoon is the right time to plant the saplings. If people give us a shout, we will even send people to plant them in their compounds. Recycle water and use solar power. If every house can become self-sufficient in electricity and water, it'll make a huge difference


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