Thursday, September 02, 2010

Infrastructure is eating us out of home and heritage

Infrastructure is eating us out of home and heritage

BIG B's Blog entry set off a discussion on the things individuals lose as cities get new development projects

Aparajita Ray

After the much-publicised blog entry by actor Amithabh Bachchan saying that the Mumbai metro would "roll over Prateeksha," his house in the Juhu area, other celebrities too have remarked about infrastructure projects in urban areas. So widely were Bachchan's opinions being discussed in Mumbai that the man was forced to clarify that those charging him with valuing his privacy over the general good were mistaken; that the blog ought to be read in entirety.
In Bangalore too, in the name of city infrastructure, the state government and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike have displaced people and demolished heritage structures. Although the bulk of those who have lost their property to infrastructure projects are ordinary citizens, even some celebrity Bangaloreans have been affected.
Actor Tara, winner of the national award for best actor, whose home is in the Fifth Phase, JP Nagar, said, "I have been staying in this house for 25 years. I have a strong sentimental attachment to my home. One fine morning, I saw a signboard outside my house saying that a subway would be built under the road in front of my house. I was shocked. Somehow, the compound wall of my house was not broken, but construction has happened right adjacent to my house. I feel one with those whose homes have been affected."
The underpass near Tara's house is still under construction. It has still to be inaugurated. She is, however, apprehensive that the peace she enjoys at her home will soon be disturbed by the relentless flow of traffic. Ask her about the road-widening plans of the BBMP that have currently been shelved, and she says, "Yeah, a time will come when all we'll have in the city are roads, no houses."
Remarking about the ham-handedness with which many infrastructure projects are implemented, Tara said, "In many Western nations that have had to deal with traffic congestion, heritage sites have been preserved as part of the city's landscape even as infrastructure projects have been implemented. Here, not only is heritage not even considered, even those displaced by such work remain uncompensated."
Former judge of the Karnataka high court, justice MF Saldhana, said that it is time that the people acted to stop the devastation of the city in the name of development. "Under the guise of metro rail, they (the state government and the corporation) have devastated the city. It looks like a war zone. The mono rail consortium, a global organisation, had appealed to the state government that they could set up a system in 10 months, without cutting any tree or taking any land. The mono rail would have been a state-of-the-art venture, likely to serve the commuting needs of the city for at least 20 years. Fares would be lower than bus fares, and the project would be implemented at no cost to the government. But who listens?" asked the former judge, in conversation with DNA.


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