Monday, May 11, 2009

It is possible for the Metro....

It is possible for the Metro.... 

Simply stated, it is possible for the Metro to be re-aligned to save Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Parks from certain ruination.  It is not so much an issue about losing trees, as it is about losing precious public commons and parks forever.

The Metro is perhaps an useful project to relieve pressue of traffic congestion. But the Metro is also a project that has to be built in such a manner that it does not destroy half of Bangalore.

The Detailed Project Report of the Bangalore Metro admits that there are equally feasible alternatives to the one that is chosen in the Southern reach that goes through a section of Lalbagh and all through Lakshman Rao park.  The DPR does not explain why the alternative route was not chosen over what is proposed now.

The DPR has clearly and categorically stated that every station of  a Metro will become a major traffic hub. 

The DPR has categorically explained that upto 10% of the revenue earnings of the Metro will be recovered by exploiting 'government lands' commercially.  It is assumed that parks are such 'government lands', though it is well established that parks are merely under the custodial care of the Government and cannot be traded.  Yet, the Horticulture Dept has been questionably directed to sell a portion of Lalbagh to the Bangalore Metro, which in turn has admitted that a station will be located here.  It is independently admitted in the DPR that every station will be exploited for commercial value to recover capital costs and loans repayments.

If Lalbagh or Lakshman Rao Park has to be sold for a greater purpose, which perhaps the Metro may be, it is not a decision that only a few bureaucrats can take.  The public must be involved.  Yet not one Statutory Public Consultation has been held by the Bangalore Metro, ever.  The Legislature too has not been taken into confidence. Clearly, thereby, violating the fundamental tenets of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, the directions of the High Court of Karnataka that this law must be strictly complied with, and in effec the democratic polity of this country. 

The shaping of a city is not a process that can be decided in a cursory manner.  It is a deeply democratic process, and involves statutory processes, none of which have been applied to this case.

We need a Metro that works for the greater common good. Not one that is built expediently, the adverse impacts of which we need to suffer for decades to come.  The Southern alignment of the Metro clearly ruins every stretch of the park space of south Bangalore. There is no other place like this for miles.  Metro is useful, but parks are critical to urban living.

The Metro has alternatives that aren't being explored.  It is important that you help shape a livable city and demand the implementation of the Metro on alternate alignments that protect precious park and open spaces.

 It is still possilbe to realign the Metro to make it useful for now and the future.  With such thinking, Hasiru Usiru called upon the people to join the protest to save Lalbagh and  encourage the Chief Minister of Karnataka to take a popular stand to realign the southern reach of the Metro that will not only save Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Parks, but will also project his legacy for all time to come. 

On  Saturday, 9th May 2009, Hundreds, including children, women, elderly, and the young, gathered in the early hours of Saturday on Lakshman Rao boulevard to continue protests against the construction of Bangalore Metro through Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Park. The protest organised by Hasiru Usiru coincided with a visit to the Lakshman Rao boulevard by Mr. Sivasailam, IAS, MD of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd., which was facilitated by Mr. Vijaykumar, MLA (Jayanagar).

As Mr. Sivasailam and his team explained the impacts of the Metro project on Lakshman Rao park, many residents of Jayanagar and volunteers of Hasiru Usiru sought permission to raise questions. Distressingly they were shouted down and denied opportunity to interact with the Metro officials at this time. Disregarding fervent appeals to interact with those gathered at the protest site, the official team moved on to explain the features of the Metro running through Lakshman Rao boulevard to representatives of various civic association of Jayanagar.

This egged the Hasiru Usiru protestors to intensify their demand that the Metro MD and his officials must return and respond to their concerns. With song and slogan, the protestors asserted that the Metro can be built without destroying parks. Initially reluctant, but finally relenting, the Mr. Sivasailam and his team along with Mr. Vijaykumar returned to address those gathered at the protest site, a gesture that was deeply appreciated by all.

A question was posed to Mr. Sivasailam why the Government has not explored constructing the southern reach of the Metro through an alternative alignment that runs through the Jayanagar shopping centre, thus completely avoiding the need to destroy precious heritage park zones. It was explained that this alternative alignment has been considered more viable in the Detailed Project Report of Bangalore Metro, as it also allows for expansion in future to Electronics city as well as Banashankari, and without destroying portions of Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Park. Mr. Sivasailam refused to get into a debate on the alignment issue claiming that his agency was only implementing the project and the alignment was a decision of the Government. He stated that the Metro was implementing the project legally as it was approved by the Cabinet, but this was greeted by howls of protest. People demanded public accountability and wanted to know why the Government subversively chose to issue an Ordinance to take portions of Lalbagh, K. R. Road park and Lakshman Rao park, when this issue should have first been debated threadbare in the Assembly and in public. Mr. Sivasailam refused to comment on this issue as well.

Mr. Vijaykumar spoke and clarified that the issue is open to debate and he would do everything within his means to represent the grievances of the public at any level including with the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Karnataka. He also urged the public to visit the Metro office and go through any document to understand the implications of the project.

Prof. B. K. Chandrashekar, former Chairman of the Karnataka Legislative Council, came to the spot and addressed the gathering. He stated that with due respects to the Chief Minister, it was deeply distressing that Mr. Yeddyurappa had recently stated that there would not be any review of this alignment despite growing protests. Prof. Chandrashekar said this was unfortunate as the Chief Minister is the highest appellate authority for people to raise their grievance and his door should not be shut on them. He also expressed concern that such a critical issue had never been discussed threadbare in the Assembly or Council to the best of his knowledge. He also said that a mass transit system was very much required for Bangalore, and the present mess is a result of the irresponsibility of various governments not taking timely steps over the past two decades.

Hasiru Usiru declared that it will continue its protests and demand re-routing the Metro away from Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao parks. A collective decision was taken to approach the Hon'ble Chief Minister and convince him that it is possible to save precious heritage parks and also build the Metro progressively along the alternative alignment through Jayanagar's commercial complex and bus stand region.

Click the image below to view details. 

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