Why I am participating in the Namma Raste, Namma Ooru Walk

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With regard to the tree-felling and road-widening that is happening now…..we are against *indiscriminate* use of this facility, that’s all. The point is, that cutting down trees is irreversible, so what we are saying is, involve the citizens in this decision-making process, and let us cut down trees ONLY when there is no other solution.

The High Court of Karnataka has given a decision that the BBMP authorities must include the citizens’ forum, Hasiru Usiru, in its deliberations and only take decisions on tree-felling and road-widening that complies with the Town and Rural Planning Act. Right now, this is not being done. So we are fighting a legal battle here.

The other point is that widening the roads is actually adding to the problem, by allowing more vehicles to drive through the roads. And at the rate of 1500 vehicles being registered every day, the widened road will become choked up in no time. (This has already happened at several places.)

Other cities have addressed this problem without getting rid of their green cover, so we also would like to look at similar solutions.

We can learn from both the successes of other cities…and some spectacular failures, such as the 16-lane roads in Los Angeles which are still choked with traffic, and the Elevated railway in Boston which had to be broken down and re-constructed underground after the neighbourhoods degraded, the crime rates soared, and pollution hit all-time highs.

Replantation is not a simple issue. In the first place, saplings cannot, in the short term, take care of oxygen and carbon di oxide, support plant and animal life, and bring down the ambient temperature the way a fully-grown tree can.

Also, these saplings are planted far away from the sites where the trees are cut, so they cannot be beneficial to the microclimate of central Bangalore.

Neither does there seem any guarantee that these saplings will grow to the majestic proportions of the trees that are being felled. 20 to 40 years may not seem much…but a few of the trees that have been felled are a 100 years old!

Bangalore comes with beautiful avenues and boulevards that have been planted in the past by wise administrators. We may not have added a single such boulevard to our urban landscape, but surely we should at least protect, not what we had, but at the very least, what remains now, after several years of losing our green cover steadily, during which the inner city temperatures have risen by 3 to 4 degrees Celsius.

All these are the reasons why we are asking to be included in the BBMP decision-making process, and want to give alternative solutions where possible.

We are also concerned about the livelihoods of the vendors and small businessmen; they have as much right to be a part of Bangalore as the motorists, and they are not the people who can come to the BBMP and voice their concerns. Removing our rich street life can only impoverish our city and rob it of its vibrant character.

Wider roads are also being built without any provision for footpaths, making it very difficult for pedestrians, cyclists, the elderly, children, and disabled people. These people, too, have as much rights as the motorists of Bangalore.

The short-sighted siting of the new airport, and the desperate hurry to cut through the city to gain access to it, seems to be killing our city.

Let’s not squander, thoughtlessly, the treasures that we have, and repent later.

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