Monday, February 22, 2010

They raise green concern, not envy

They raise green concern, not envy

Students wage a battle for lung space even as citizens cry for their basic needs

This northernmost constituency of greater Bangalore, faces sudden development trauma. Suffering from problems of plenty, it needs level-headed civic champions to conciliate responsible growth with quality life. Fortunately, it has begun to
experiment with a lot of positive action, writes
PK Surendran

PK Surendran



The area is on the fringes of city but the issue rocking Byatarayanapura assembly constituency is at the core of Bangalore's survival. And the youth are at the centre of this battle. Ironically, the constituency is represented by the president of the state Youth Congress.
While their counterparts elsewhere in the city are furthering their studies and career, a few hundred students of Agriculture University in Byatarayanapura are fighting for oxygen for themselves and for 10 million Bangaloreans. Save an occasional media pat, they are alone.
"Why is it that people don't understand they can't live without air?" asks Chaithra, an undergraduate in agriculture marketing. She does not get an answer because this constituency of seven civic wards is busy putting rocket on a bullock cart.
An academic comes with the macro-level problem. "Suddenly," says Prof KS Rajaram, resident of Vidyaranyapura, "this rural set up woke up to see huge columns of people marching into their sleepy villages like Ghengis Khan's army."
He is all praise for the struggling students. "They are the salt of the earth. Their struggle with the authorities of many hues over the 6-km GKVK Road linking Yeshwantpur with Yelahanka that cuts across the university's heart — botanical research estate — remains the most noticeable event of Byatarayanapura. This is the rearguard action of the educated youth to save environment," says he.
"BBMP is our problem," says Bhavya HK, a student and resident of Devanahalli. "The government should leave education institutions, which are essentially lung spaces and temples of learning, for the young. The kind of authoritarian attitude the officials display won't do," she says.
GKVK or Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra in northern Bangalore is spread over 1,000 acres and happens to be the largest lung space for an expanding Bangalore. "Cubbon Park and Lalbagh are just tiny islands. This is the only true greenery left. Don't these people, who order cutting of trees at will, want children to survive?" asks student leader Sidharth Prabhakar. "Despite a court ban, the Palike cut some 2,000 adult trees to make the road and the destruction continues," he adds.
But the young MLA, Krishna Byregowda, also president of the state Youth Congress, has a different story. "This road is to save many houses and shops which will otherwise have to be demolished. I've asked the Palike to plant trees. I've initiated planting of 25,000 saplings in my constituency in the past two years. But what's wrong about GKVK cutting trees on its campus?"
Farmers' leader Kuruburu Shantakumar, who supports the students, says, "The international airport has brought monetary benefits to landowners. But it took away peace and environment."
"Construction spree is intense in this area but amenities are not catching up. This is the underlying problems of Byatarayanapura, Yelahanka and Doddaballapur," says Ravi Pai, a leading developer and managing director of Century builders.
This is strange considering the fact that erstwhile Byatarayanapura municipal council had taken e-governance to an advanced stage. It had mapped areas, undertaken online issuance of khatas and birth/death certificates and established a customer grievance cell.
Meanwhile, from irregular drinking water supply to mosquito menace, the residents have a list of issues which need to be addressed. Water shortage tops the list. "We have dug 400 borewells in the past 18 months," says Byregowda.
The plight of people in the villages, which have been newly merged with the Palike, is worse with few civic amenities. The voters there complain that they do not have access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation and transportation.
The constituency sports a curious mix of swanky apartments, spacious layouts and posh villas, and slums and villages plagued by poor sanitation system. Except for a few stretches of roads in the high-end Sahakarnagar area, other roads in the constituency are in bad shape.
A talk with residents in Jakkur (which has a flying club), Kodigehalli, and Vidyaranyapura reveals the development trauma in vivid terms. "The Bellary Road, now made an eight-lane, sees incessant high-speed traffic but interior roads and villages have poor connectivity," says KN Shenoy of MV Pylee Lane in Kodigehalli.

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