Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Their prayer to Palike: leave us alone

Their prayer to Palike: leave us alone

Citizens wonder how Dr Rajkumar Road will become a signal-free corridor when five underpasses come up on this 80-ft, 3.6km stretch which has 15 major intersections and as many minor ones. It will only disfigure this beautiful tree-lined thoroughfare and destroy a 60-year-old ecosystem, they argue

Shilpa CB

Houses and commercial properties on Dr Rajkumar Road are under threat thanks to the civic authorities' grand idea to make it a signal-free corridor by building five underpasses.
Owers and tenants, who have been notified and told to make way, are shocked the Palike conceived such an elaborate and destructive plan without consulting them, studying the problems or collecting facts to support their drive.
There is absolutely no case for embarking on this exercise which will only disfigure this beautiful tree-lined road and destroy an ecosystem that has been growing for over 60 years, they argue.
"We are not against development. If this exercise will benefit users of this road, we will not oppose it," say residents. They have formed the Citizen Support Group to studying the plan threadbare.
"There are 15 major intersections and 15 minor ones on this 80-ft road which is about 3.6km long. How will it be signal-free with five underpasses? When we asked the engineers this, they said it would be a semi-signal-free corridor," says N Prasad, a members of the group.
If that is the objective, the Palike should invest in an elevated road which would cost Rs280 crore. Land need not be acquired, over 271 properties can be saved, and most of the 700 trees could be spared, the group says. But there are no takers for this suggestion. For a long elevated road, engineers will have to engage a large construction company. But for the underpasses, they can hire small-time contractors. The money that will change hands as kickbacks will be much more in the second scenario, they allege.
There are numerous reasons why building underpasses of roughly 600 metres every few hundred metres is not going to help the cause of traffic. It will make the road resemble a camel's back with many ups and downs. Also, a few important intersections have been skipped which means that vehicles coming out of these underpasses will end up right at a traffic signal again. The quantum of traffic will also be the same. The Metro comes in at the Navrang Junction.
"We filed two RTI applications seeking details on what is being planned here. To one, the answer was underpass, to the other it was overpass. Technically, neither is possible," says ASN Kumar, a trader.
The group discovered more such anomalies by filing 30 RTI applications. The information they gathered was analysed by experts. It does not, however, take an expert to point out that signal-free corridors do not belong inside the city in the first place.
"There are schools, hospitals, banks, and shops along both sides of the road. There are houses too. How will a person living on one side cross over to the other to avail these services? Should he or she go all the way to the beginning of the road to enter it? Besides, with speeding vehicles, the road will become accident prone and inhospitable for any business," says Suresh Chandra, the landlord credited with starting the movement against the ill-planned underpasses.
"Don't take our houses and buildings and make a mess of the road. At least, make good use of it. Our sacrifice should benefit road users," says restaurateur Sridhar D.
The group also mentions that Dr Rajkumar Road is one of the smoothest roads to cruise through, most hours of the day. In the late hours, however, a private travel agency turns it into a bus stand by lining the road connecting Tumkur Road and Yeshwantpur to Majestic with tourist buses. Unfortunately, noise and pollution are fallouts residents have to live with.
Containing this menace is as important as improving the condition of the roads, the footpaths and the street-lighting.
Corporator Shashikala Krishnegowda has not cared to visit the road after she got elected. The many MPs and MLAs too have turned their backs on their voters. The issues surrounding the proposed transformation of Dr Rajkumar Road are numerous. One that cannot be missed is the connection between the Palike's plan and the sprawling township that has been built on industrial land located at one end of the road.
"There are 1,254 apartments, 6lakh square feet of office space, an 'international' school, a 5-star hotel, a mall with 11-screen multiplex and a hospital in that township. We have found out that the office space is not finding takers because of connectivity issues. Civic agencies could also be objecting to the space being occupied as infrastructure needs such as roads have not been met," says Prasad.
A 7-acre space opposite this township is lying vacant for developers to build on. However, the road cannot host such mega projects.
"The BDA's master plan has clearly said this road is only suitable for small buildings and single dwelling units. A sprawling campus of high-rises would be out of place here," says Kumar.
The civic authority is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Building owners are already suffering after the BBMP marked their properties.
Rents have dropped, a few buildings have been lying vacant for more than a year although the landlords have slashed rents drastically.
"It's the most insulting thing the BBMP did. Once proud residents of Dr Rajkumar Road, we now walk with our heads hung low," says Prasad in a dejected way..


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