Monday, May 19, 2008

Roads to Progress

I was not older than 08 or 09 when my family left behind their thick-walled home in Malleswaram, to move into what was virtually a village, boulevards and all. Now, while I can’t quite recall the numbered houses in our colony or the vegetable market at Gangenahalli (now a crowded shopping area, renamed Ganga Nagar) that the oldies keep reminiscing about, there are other things that I do remember….like the huge vacant plot of land where we used to play, got converted to a Mahindra Showroom. There are shops where there were none and more people that one can keep track of in a lifetime, and more vehicles than are good for the ozone layer.

Slabs of concrete soaring skyward, punctured with rectangles of glass, they resolutely block out what I’m sure is one stunning cloudscape. Everywhere I turn, characterless (thought sometimes colorful), often awkwardly shaped buildings; squeeze uncomfortably between large-boned creatures in a race to touch the sky. Other than the apparent height contest they’re participating in their sole shared flaw is, they sit squat on land that was once home to beautiful, green boulevards.

Every time another ‘showroom’ comes up…down goes one of those large, graceful gulmohar or jacarandas that I’ve watched squirrels playing catch-on.

The Bangalore-Hyderabad Highway was not long ago considered the outskirts of Bangalore and auto-wallas would shun at the idea of a trip to Hebbal. I remember being pillion on my father’s scooter and even as we zipped past Mekhri-Circle in the evenings, the air would suddenly transform, no matter what the season, carrying with it a light chill. As I would look up to follow the moon playing hide-and-seek from amidst the mist-topped trees, the place would seem magical.

This is, of course, no fairytale and ugly reality has replaced this scenario in the name of growth and development. Like someone very great once said, “I suppose if we couldn’t laugh at things that don’t make sense, then we couldn’t react to a lot of life.” Which is exactly the case with the new roads that seem to have made way closer home- it’s the National Highway No.07, and the roads that we are talking about is the new 6-laner that is in progress, as an extension to the International Airport at Devanahalli. Forget the number of trees (although that’s a difficult call) that have been felled in the last couple of weeks to support progression; we seem to forget the overwhelmingly exhaustive foray of four-wheelers that are going to enter the scene by the turn of this year. Or say, the next 5 years. Has anyone heard of the Nano?

While it is easy to blame it on a Government for all mishaps, I think that it is our duty as well to act responsibly. Aren’t we the same crowd that would shun from spitting inside a mall?

And no, this is no campaign against TATA or Nano or spitting in public, rest assured. Instead, it is to bring focus to that key issue for which the present roads are being punctured; prodded and debunked ---- to ‘make way’ for the proposed increase in traffic with the opening of the International Airport, AND for the easy flow of the same.

If this is our key problem that requires addressing, then I am left with a question and no answer:

Or, am I just missing something here that everyone else seems to have got?

Sometimes bureaucratic decisions seem to involve taking careful aim at their feet and then shooting it. I am not exactly sure what these 6-lanes propose to serve besides causing more jams; blaring horns; rising blood pressures and maybe along the way, an occasional relief to the traffic circulation but without much deviation (from the issue at hand), I would like the authorities and people in general to look into 4 key problems that need to be addressed before speeding along the Highway and turning it into a complete fiasco.

1. Replanting of Trees
Few or none, seem to be aware of the fact that according to the Karnataka Forest Department’s Preservation of Trees Act, Act 21 of 1977 w.e.f. 1.12.1987, (5) where permission to fell a tree is granted, the Tree Officer may grant it, subject to condition that the applicant shall plant another tree or trees of the same species or any other suitable species on the same site or other suitable place within 30 days from the date the tree is felled or within such extended time as the Tree Officer may allow.
And according to Act 21 of 1977 w.e.f. 29.7.1977, (7) Nothing in this section shall apply to felling of Casuarina, Coconut, Erythrina, Eucalyptus, Glyrecidia, Hopea Wightina, Prosipis, Rubber, Sesbania, Silver Oak and Subabul trees.
Not only is a government responsible for the preservation of trees but it is our duty as well to conserve the vanishing green.

2. One lane to be reserved for cyclists alone

3. One lane to be reserved for two-wheelers alone

4. Automated traffic crossings
(like in Singapore etc.). This helps pedestrians hugely.

5. Provide a speed lane if possible (like the lane system abroad)

6. Address the increase in noise pollution (maybe have recharge systems for honks).

Okay, so there were five key points as opposed to the four afore mentioned. But it is not about the number of points here; it is about taking a serious call on these issues while they can still be resolved. Especially the first three points mentioned above are completely workable.

This would only mean that we, as people, co-operate with a government that lends a helping hand. The authority in turn should re-plant the trees (rain trees); make a policy for people to follow these rules by the book, else they be fined.

We have definitely moved from a ‘halli’ to a developed locale in less than a decade. But can we move back to become an eco-friendly commune before we get raped & fried on the map of globalization. Lest another 5 years from now, we shall be standing on the same roads; with the same problem that we are now facing; only having gone around in circles!!

link below as published in the Deccan Herald: