Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Garden City no more!

Garden City no more!

Chitra V. Ramani

Bangalore is losing its tree-lined avenues to development

Bangalore: “I used to walk to Maharani’s Arts and Science College from Malleswaram. I would be tired by the time I got half way, but would feel refreshed at once after reaching Palace and Seshadri Road. These two landmark tree-lined avenues are unrecognisable now,” lamented octogenarian G.S. Anasuya.

This year, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) launched a flurry of road-widening projects, and with 91 roads earmarked for “development”, thousands of trees are slated to face the axe. Arterial roads such as Race Course Road, Palace Road and Seshadri Road — all of which were characteristic of the erstwhile “garden city” — have lost hundreds of large, ancient and beautiful trees over the latter half of the year.

What was only the first leg of this project had the greens up in arms with a series of protests and even cases were filed in various courts. In accordance with a High Court order, for the first time, an empowered committee on road widening was set up with the mandate of monitoring the environmental impact of development projects. Though the committee’s work has been mired in controversy for the better part of the year, this and the fact that a public platform was created for citizens to voice their opinions in these projects, was seen as a landmark achievement.

M.F. Saldanha, former Judge of High Court of Karnataka, said that over the past year, about 28,000 trees had been felled between Bangalore and Hassan. Close to six million birds had died due to this, he averred. “If we continue to allow civic authorities to continue at this rate, I am afraid that by 2010, there may not be any trees standing in Bangalore.”

The paradigm of urban planning had to change, Mr. Saldanha said.

“We have the laws, rules and regulations in place already. The need of the hour is to ensure that the authorities concerned adhered to them. The judiciary should also take an active role in this regard," he added. Environmentalist S.G. Neginhal believes that development should not happen at the cost of the environment. “Many trees that have been mindlessly felled had been planted by the Diwans of Mysore. We should not trade the city’s green cover for the sake of development,” he said.

Mr. Neginhal said that the authorities had not taken interest in planting saplings to replace the trees that have been felled.


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