Sunday, October 25, 2009

Metro will mutilate our legacy

Metro will mutilate our legacy

N Prabhu Dev, Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University, says that the underground Bangalore Metro corridor at Ambedkar Veedhi will endanger the city's heritage buildings — Vidhana Soudha, High Court and Bangalore University.

Nidhi Bhushan

BMRC should conduct tests
When we think Bangalore, the three heritage buildings — Vidhana Soudha, Central College and High Court — can be seen as metaphors of it. These monuments have stood their ground for over 100 years in the city, with the exception of the Vidhana Soudha. These very buildings are facing a serious threat from the proposed Metro sub-station. "All these three buildings are major monuments and it is our responsibility to preserve them. The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRC) should carry out the required vibration tests to ensure their safety," says N Prabhu Dev, Vice-Chancellor, Bangalore University. He complains that the BMRC hasn't bothered to adhere to the questions raised by him and others regarding the construction of the Metro corridor at Ambedkar Veedhi till date. "The authorities are absolutely insensitive to our genuine expression of concern. They don't understand that a constant and consistent movement of trains would certainly damage these structures in the course of time. And, if these buildings can withstand the impact, the authorities need to provide us the proof."

Possible terror quarry
Apart from being a threat to the three buildings, the metro sub-station can become a sitting duck for terrorist activities in the city, feels Dev. He cites the examples of terror attacks in London, Glasgow and New York, where terrorists had looked at underground sub-stations for planting bombs. "Despite having top-notch security systems in place these international cities were victims of terror attacks. Then, how can one be sure that such a thing will not happen here?" asks Dev, adding that the security system in the country is also not something we can be particularly proud of. "Today, with the advanced technology, even a small bomb placed in a dust bin can cause massive destruction," he adds.

Reroute the metro corridor
"This wasn't the original route for the metro anyway, so why can't the BMRC reroute it again? If they can do it once, they can do it again," exclaims Dev. The corridor was originally going to be located under Cubbon Park, however, due to unavailablility of land there, the BMRC relocated the station to Ambedkar Veedhi.

Let's co-ordinate our efforts
Dev's efforts are worth applauding undoubtedly. However, it also makes us wonder if we are being too passive about the issue? Questions like why did a person of his stature have to initiate the campaign, where was everyone else, why wasn't his opinion sought, cross our minds. "I don't believe in stature. I'm just another concerned Kannadiga who wants the best for his city," argues Dev. "There have been many voices raised against the construction of the station, but they are not well coordinated and hence are not heard by many."
Lack of proper planning
If one compares Bangalore's metro project to international metro rail projects, the former would seem like a joke. With the focus only on the construction of the station, minute detailing has been left out or ignored completely. "The objective of introducing metro in the city is to control the traffic situation in the city. However, in the long run, it won't achieve the set targets as no proper planning has gone into the project," says Dev.
The estimated population of the city in the year 2020 is 160 lakh, double of what it is today. "There's no way the metro can provide the solution to this problem. Unless the public is not provided proper facilities in the existing public transport system, the metro won't serve any purpose," says Dev.
The area given to the metro — 23 km surface and 8 km underground — will not cover the growing population of the city, says Dev. As a solution to the existing problem, he says, that there has to be a drastic shift in the attitude towards using public transport and private transport. "The subsidies on luxury cars should be banned completely and the money coming from that should be used to better the facilities provided by the public transport and improving the infrastructure of the city. If the government enhances the tax on such cars, it can raise enough money to improvise the public facilities and encourage Bangaloreans to use public transport — the traffic problem will automatically be taken care of," says Dev.

The good side of the Metro
"Metro will encourage more and more bonding between people as distances will become less and one won't think twice about going to a friend's wedding or a get-together in another part of the city," says Dev.
He also says that the Metro will have its share of advantages if the planning that goes into it is top-notch.


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