Friday, May 28, 2010

People's unity moves round in circles

People's unity moves round in circles

Residents' voice lost at Tagore Circle underpass but there's still hope

Bosky Khanna



Trees standing near the Tagore Circle underpass kept looking up all day lifting their leafy arms in prayer. But the civic contractor had a deadline to meet and started cutting them.
This fresh onslaught has left the local residents shocked and angry. Tree cutting in the guise of pruning branches began on Wednesday. Residents, who oppose the concept, are yet to regroup and seem to be unable to stop the project. Even the area corporator appears to be unaware of this slaughter.
At the ground level, there now seems to be conflict among the residents. Some are planning to file public interest litigation (PIL) to stall the work. Others are silently opposing the project.
Venkatesh, secretary of Basawangudi Traders Associations, says protests are going on but the project work continues. "Only a few people are interested in protesting. The rest seem to be pre-occupied with their personal problems. They have given up the fight as the government does not care. However, we are planning to file a PIL next weak," he says.
To undertake an underpass construction, the roads or intersections in Basavanagudi should see at least 11,000 passenger car units movement (PCU) per hour. But according to surveys, the area records only 4,000 PCU, he says.
Venkatesh Madhusadhan, a resident of Basavanagudi and frequent user of KR Road, says: "Trees are being axed and the government has gone ahead with the project without proper data. Based on the data we've collected, it seems all traffic may converge at Gandhi Bazaar and get choked once the underpass becomes operational. The government has not thought of this. Residents are not united. Only a handful of them are protesting. We need all of them to come together and prevent the massacre of trees."
Traffic expert Prof MN Sreehari says there is no need for an underpass at the circle when the traffic density does not even warrant a signal.
"Stupid consultants and BBMP prepared a report showing that there was traffic of over 11,750 PCU and floated the idea of constructing the underpass. But currently, KR Road sees only 4,750 PCU at Tagore Circle. There is no need even for a signal. Then why is the government constructing an underpass when it is not needed," asks traffic expert Sreehari.
The Rs26-crore project work started three months ago.
BJP MLA Ravi Subramanya, who was earlier a strong critic of the project, later backed off as he wanted to avoid a political battle. Even before the underpass work started, he had warned the officials not to start work without consulting the local people and formulating a detailed and transparent report.
"In the first meeting, I had opposed the idea. Nothing can be done now. If the work is stalled, the contractor will have to be paid a hefty amount which the government does not want now," says he.
"There is a huge timber mafia behind this. A holistic approach is needed to tackle the situation, rather than the present fragmented approach. The government should have made the road one way. I'm sure Bangaloreans will not mind travelling an extra 200 metres to save the 73-odd mature trees from being axed," says TV Ramachandra of Energy and Wetlands Research Group Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science.
Vinay Sreenivasa from Hasiru Usiru says at least 90 trees will be cut. Since no PIL has been filed, the only way to stall the work is through protests. The 6-km road has a large number of big trees which are facing the axe "There is a timber mafia working behind this," he says.
Arun P, a resident, says according to an earlier BBMP report, 50 trees were to be cut. But now, at least 73 will be lost for the underpass.
Basavanagudi corporator Katte Satyanarayana seems to be unaware of Wednesday's episode. "I've been told by officials that only the branches are being cut and not the trees. I've not seen or heard of any report in the media of the issue as I'm busy with the council meetings. Once it is over, I will look into the matter," says he.
He has promised to visit the site. "I will visit the project area on Friday and inspect the work. The work cannot be stopped as it started months ago," he says.

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