Monday, August 01, 2011

Errant drivers, clogged lakes, felled trees... woes that plague the erstwhile Garden City





Last week, I was in the erstwhile Garden City once again, part business, part pleasure. Cloudy skies, an occasional drizzle and a continuous wind kept my energy going. My luck with the city’s autorickshaw drivers continued to run, small mercies. But I was surprised to read in the newspapers about the notoriety of some of the drivers. My cousin pooh-poohed my premise that the drivers there were far better than the ones in Chennai. “You have to be here to understand,” he grunted. So, perhaps what a friend had insisted earlier was true, after all.

And now, there is a proposal to introduce 40000 new autos to the city. Will there be space for all of them, I wonder. Thankfully, it remains just a proposal and let’s hope it stays that way for some time to come. Talking about drivers of all forms of vehicles in Bangalore, it's almost the law of the jungle that rules - might is right.

Bangalore residents are having much to worry about these days, it appears. Yesterday, a group of them in Kaikondanapalli (off Surajpur Road) marched down the streets demanding that the Kaikondanapalli Lake and other lakes in the city be cleansed and restored to their natural beauty. What a shame that nature has to bear the brunt in the face of senseless development!

I took a late evening walk around the Ulsoor Lake and was happy to see clear waters – thanks to an army operation some weeks ago. Part of the lake area still stinks though, with all kinds of debris floating. What is the civic administration doing? We all know what the government ministers are up to. It’s the same everywhere in India – name one state where there is good governance. Gujarat? Probably.

The other demonstration in Bangalore last week was the one against the felling of trees. Many trees on Sankey Road are on the chopper’s block, for the sake of a flyover perhaps or a rail-over-bridge or some other monstrosity. But the innocent trees (how many years does it take for a sapling to grow into a tree!) have to suffer for no fault of theirs.

It’s not Sankey Road alone. As I was walking across the street near the Thom’s supermarket I saw the remnants of a felled tree. You talk to any Bangalorean and s/he will tell you how ‘they’ massacred the trees on MG Road, promising a replant for posterity’s sake; but will that ever happen? Which civic administration is willing to listen to the voice of residents these days? Unless you have money and muscle power, which not many middle-class families have.

So what is the way out? I think media has to step in, and step in a big way as far as civic issues are concerned. Are civic issues discussed during prime time on national television? No. It’s politics most of the way, isn’t it. Newspapers, too, must chip in with powerful, hitting stories every second day. If the administrators refuse to listen to people’s voices, they may not like to ignore some powerful stories the media puts out. Civic issues are not glamorous issues, the reason why the media is not really taking them up the way they should. That’s the sad part. Obviously, the media has a lot of soul-searching to do and that is unlikely to happen in hurry.

Well, here are pictures of the felled tree near Thom’s and the clear waters of the Ulsoor Lake, thanks to efforts by the army at heritage conservation.

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