Monday, May 24, 2010

BENGALURU GROWING, BUT AT WHAT COST?

BENGALURU GROWING, BUT AT WHAT COST?
Bengaluru,


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The citizens of Bengaluru have spoken. Saving the city from an impending ecological disaster is top priority. No longer will they tolerate the city's trees and green cover being cut down in the name of `development'. Nor will they put up with the kind of official apathy that has brought the city to the brink of its current water and power crisis. Deccan Chronicle continues to echo their message in its `Paint It Green' campaign, a series in the run up to its second anniversary celebrations in Bengaluru on May 26. Is the government listening? Environmentalists are up in arms against the civic authorities for chopping down trees indiscriminately for infrastructure projects many of which do not even serve their purpose. They want the government to develop an alternative strategy, reports Amit S. Upadhye

Ben galuru has lost several trees to make way for infrastructure projects. But have these projects actually helped the city?
Environmentalists are questioning the way development projects are being taken up saying that the civic authorities display a lack of foresight while planning them. "Why do you need development in the heart of the city," asks environmentalist Suresh Heblikar, who feels that the city has a tradition where buildings have existed along with trees. He says heritage trees should not be felled especially in the central areas of Bengaluru.
Hundreds of trees were mercilessly chopped down in the last two years for road widening. But these areas are now being used for unorganised and parking.
But despite several protests and legal battles, govern ment agencies still manage to cut trees that stand in the path of `development.' "Whose development are we talking about when it does not help a large section of the people. Trees serve everyone and their ecological benefits are invaluable.
There was no need for such vigorous development in the heart of the city. For the last several years, I have been stressing on decentralising development in Bengaluru so that the city remains how it used to be -a cleaner place to live," said Mr Heblikar.

The old areas of Bengaluru such as Malleswaram, Basavanagudi and parts of south Bengaluru had managed to hold on to its cultural ethos.
"But even these areas are fast losing the real essence of Bengaluru due to mindless developmental projects.
For example, the National College Flyover, for which several old avenue trees were felled, is hardly used by commuters," he added.

A joint survey by BBMP and the environmental science department of Bangalore University to prepare a Biodiversity Register of Bengaluru revealed that senior citizens in the city are highly disturbed by the pace at which trees are being chopped down in Bengaluru.

According to the survey, about 42 per cent of senior citizens said cutting down avenue trees are a major concern whereas 33 per cent said the loss of heritage and fruit bearing tress and medicinal plants is a bigger issue.

On the issue of specific trees being lost in the neighborhood, about 45 per cent of the senior citizens interviewed said Indian rubber trees, java plums, and the banyan tree are disappearing fast.

Environmental laws are not being effectively used to protect trees in Bengaluru, says Nandini N., chairman, environmental science department of Bangalore University. She has urged the government to bring in a human element in the tree preservation process by which the necessary goal can be achieved. "It is a fundamental right of every citizen to preserve and retain tree cover. They should not give it up for the sake of development," adds Ms Nandini.

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