Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Garden gone to seed

Garden gone to seed
Continuing our year-ender series which looks at how Bangalore’s perceived image has taken a bad beating in 2005. Here, whatever happened to our reputation for being a clean, green Garden City?
The Times of India

FLASHBACK: Last year saw the opening up of large tracts of green belt area for development. Compared to the 742 sq km of green belt proposed in the 1995 Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), the new draft plan provides for a green area of only 565 sq km. A study by environment group Ecowatch, says today’s green cover is just about 15 per cent of the total geographical area of Bangalore.

EFFECT: According to coordinator, Environment Support Group, Leo Saldanha, “Areas like the Arkavathy Layout are extremely sensitive ecologically as it’s a watershed for rivers. Landforms are crucial here.” The present development form used by authorities — levelling the land — is archaic. Build around landforms, as in other countries, he says. A flat neighbourhood means extreme flooding during heavy rains, as seen this year. “Warm winds and duststorms occur when winds rush over empty barren lands, and the dust settles over the city. Trees block these and give a cooling effect,” he adds. Again, layouts created indiscriminately are bad in the long run. “Seven years ago, in Anjanapura Layout, 5-6,000 sites were created, but hardly any houses built. People buy — but for housing or speculation?” Saldanha asks.

Unplanned urban expansion has taken a toll on vital environment assets, believes Ecowatch’s Akshay Heblikar. “Development plans take in more area than included earlier. This must be compensated with creation of lung space in the form of trees.”

FLASHBACK: In March 2005, over 700 trees in Sampige Road, Bull Temple Road, Gandhibazar and other areas were earmarked for felling. Says Commissioner, BCC, the trees in question “posed a threat to life”.

EFFECT: This resulted in a spontaneous coming together of citizenry — students, housewives, NGOs — to protest the felling. And Hasire Usiru (Greenery is Life) was formed. The tree felling was stopped after a campaign challenging the administration’s authority to cut trees started.

There are 375 parks around Bangalore city at present, with little maintenance in many. They are often used as parking lots, garbage dumping grounds etc. According to

Ecowatch, there’s one park for every 17,000 people in Bangalore.

Since lakes as well as their catchment areas are slowly destroyed, the vegetation has also been cleared. So, the city’s facing climatic changes like water scarcity and rising temperature.


• “If we don’t relax the green belt, it will result in unauthorised development.” MN Vidya Shankar, BCC Commissioner

• “We can cry over a few trees in the city, but thousands are destroyed each time a layout is created.”

• “There must be strict regulations. People, not bureaucrats, should be involved.” Leo Saldanha


• High rises, the city’s new passion, are a no-no. “Concrete is proven to be heat-retaining.” Ditto for glass, which traps heat.

• Have strict land audits, so no land is used in excess of actual requirement. IT companies can work with innovative architects who use earth-friendly techniques. Glass and concrete structure may look ritzy, but are energy wasters. “Corporates should ask themselves — ‘do I really need that extra acre of land?’” Bangalore’s growth must be carefully planned — no one should be given unfettered powers to raze greenery.

• Create more lung spaces. For instance, 30 acres in the Kudlu area of Hosur Road is earmarked by the police housing corporation for this. “We’ve planted 5,000 saplings native to this area,” says Heblikar, “Tree cover needs to be established fast. Even half-acre sized greenery spaces around the city make an enormous difference.”


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