|By Alfie D'Souza, Illinois [ Published Date: February 19, 2015 ]|
by Alfie-Team Mangalorean; Pics by Neil Pinto- Bajpe
Mangaluru: Just look at the fantastic panoramic pictures taken by Neil Pinto -Bajpe from the helipad of on-going construction of high rise building on Light House Hill-Mangaluru of the coastal city- they look pretty and gorgeous but the pictures would have looked more pretty and gorgeous if the city was still adorned with plants and trees like the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Compliments to Neil for some eye-catching photo shots. Yes, Mangaluru now has developed over the years but it has cost the city its green cover. Is it justifiable to cut trees to grow a city? Who should be blamed for the cityís concrete quotient?†
This picturesque coastal city which was once mostly green is not green anymore. Apart from being the Educational Hub, Mangaluru is also one of the picturesque coastal city of India. With many coconut trees, arecanut trees, paddy fields, other vegetation, the city that once wore a green color has transformed into a concrete jungle filled with mega buildings, apartments, malls, hospitals, educational institutions etc- this city has totally developed into a infrastructure city. Although I have lived my entire younger life before I migrated to US two decades ago- but when I came back two years I didn't recognize my green hometown as the city I grew up in, anymore. Iíve lived in the same house for 30 years before I left India, and now I live in a renovated house at the same location, but the topography has vastly changed.
Our house which was once surrounded by coconut trees, jack fruit trees, paddy fields and other vegetation is now surrounded on all sides by huge apartments and business buildings. Independent houses, which once filled the streets with its gardens, have been converted into multi-storeyed apartments. I remember a small drain/gutter that passes adjacent to our house had lot of wild fishes in the flowing water during monsoon season- not any more, all that we see flowing in these drain is discarded cotton/medicine bottles etc from the neighbouring hospitals, empty Bisleri/Kinsley water bottles, snacks wrappers and other junk from the nearby shops. Totally polluted!
There are many more people living in the same space and thereís much more traffic, but the size of the lanes is still the same. This is happening in every part of this once beautiful green city. The city is growing but it is unable to support the growth efficiently. So itís much more congested. The concrete jungle has already been created. We have to live with it. Buildings are constructed in areas without even considering the size of the roads. The number of vehicles on these roads have certainly increased. But there is a silver lining. Some of the parks have been improved by the corporation, including the Kadri Park, but that's not enough to get back the greenery touch that this city once had years back.
Instead of spreading out evenly, the city is getting cluttered every year. It is spreading fast in such a way that, for instance, thereís no proper planning done by the MCC. Builders get approval to construct buildings even though their structures obstruct scenic beauty or any monumental structures. For example- people used to spend time at Tagore Park in the evening to watch thew sunset/sunrise in the Arabian Sea-pretty soon the view will be completely obstructed by a mega apartment complex coming up in the nearest future. High rise buildings allowed to come up without doing a geographical survey by the city administration, as to whether the structures harm the city has been lacking very much. In many cases, when the civic authorities and some builders realize the need for yet another layout, it is built even if it means filling up a lake or leveling a farmland. The long-term consequences of these steps are not being considered at all.
The density of vehicles on the road is exploding and they pollute the environment. Weíre not interested in improving the quality of our lives. There has been no planning. How do we move in and out of our homes? There is a triple huge apartment complex coming up in front of our house (Kadri Kambla Road)- It will have only small double lane road that connects to it, like it used to before the building came up. There will be hundreds of vehicles moving in and out from these apartments once they open into the road but the road is still not been widened.
The problem with our administration- they lack knowledge and common sense. We havenít had anyone to provide a direction to development. Or make a difference. For example, Surat was a hell to live in a few years back. An IAS officer turned the place around. He made a difference. We need to have vertical movement as this city will expand. The city will keep expanding horizontally and vertically in a few years as thereís no land available here. The question many will ask, Is a green Mangaluru that it was finally making a trade off with concrete Mangaluru?
Okay, Urbanization is here to stay and canít be avoided. It can happen in a disciplined or in disciplined manner and I am sorry to say that Mangaluru has chosen the latter. I believe that we can be urban and eco-friendly in the way we develop our city. Proper planning and proper involvement of the knowledgeable city authorities is a must. What we live in now is the consequence of so much urbanisation and the Educational boom. We should try to contain our development and spread out more evenly without losing out on our greenery. We have to strike a balance between how much concrete and green we can have. We try to save money for our childrenís future but 20 years later, they might not even have enough oxygen to breathe. We should take a step back and think of how to contain the growth without disturbing our environment.
Many may agree with me that mangaluru attracts people from other cities and it has to accommodate them. People bring in business and this, in turn, helps us to have a better quality of life. Urbanisation canít be blamed as it has many benefits. But proper planning as to where a licence should be given to construct a building should be thought very seriously by the civic administration. Yes, builders are highly responsible for the compounds they are building in. Seems like MCC has not been able to cope with the area they are handling now. The city is expanding and the MCC is helpless. They should at least look after the area allotted to them before they take up more responsibility. We should also try to involve everyone rather than blame sections of the society.
†Itís wrong† to look at builders as villains. We all build homes to live in.† Houses and buildings can be planned keeping nature in mind. Most cities in India have gone beyond repair but it is not too late to start looking into this issue in Mangaluru. The government needs to work with developers and planners in making blueprints. Townships are designed well but money goes to wrong places and parks and green patches disappear overnight with buildings coming up in their places. The policy makers are doing a good job but donít enforce it well.† Maintaining cleanliness and greenery is the responsibility of the government as well as the citizens, especially when it comes to dumping trash. The government provides a door-to-door service to pick up trash and even to recycle plastic and paper. Sometimes, it is the citizens who abuse the city. They should be educated by the media about steps they should take to keep surroundings clean. Citizens should get involved.
There are laws that say all projects beyond a certain size should have certain amenities like water treatment, rain water harvesting, solar water heating, landscaping, childrenís play area and parking. Not more than 50% of the space can be used for the building to be built on. We have to get 25 to 30 clearances before we start constructing a building. It may take up to 14 months to obtain the clearances. There is nobody monitoring lawmakers to enforce these laws. Money changes hands, everyone is getting greedy and corruption is worse in the private sector than in the government.
Thereís a lot of money in land and instead of making gardens, people want to make money out of it by creating buildings. According to them, the present is important. They donít bother about the future. Itís a psychological thing. We allow the eco-system to be destroyed and end up blaming builders and the government. It is the mentality of the people that should be changed before they point fingers at others. Okay, in some cases when there is no other option to construct a building,† trees have to be cut. But it doesnít mean trees canít be planted anywhere else. There are many vacant areas† with lots of spaces for greenery. Saplings can easily be planted there. Instead of looking at how the situation can be improved, we keep harping on the trees† being cut and the harm it creates.
Our roads are in a mess and I agree that trees have to be cut if theyíre blocking roads or disrupting traffic. But thereís no research going into what kind of trees are being cut or planted. Some of the trees growing on the footpath give a good cover, are linear, thin and tall, and have roots that go down instead of spreading out. Infrastructure costs are higher when roots are spread out while laying out pipes and repairing roads. I think involvement of citizens can make strong pressure groups?
All of us have to take the responsibility for our respective areas. We should be much more involved in our civic responsibilities and really shout and say no, and refuse to let parks be replaced by buildings. We need to encourage young and old to plant more trees. There are some young professionals who volunteer to help you out with gardening. They encourage you to have a small patch of green. Each of us can do a lot on our own as it makes a big difference to the city. We canít do much about whatís already gone but we can take preventive measures for the future.
For an example which I read i newspaper, when the municipal corporation said they couldnít handle the cleanliness of so many areas in Chennai, citizens from each area formed groups and cleaned up their localities. We must always replicate these plans that have worked in other places. People do feel responsible for the city and they will work towards its maintenance if you ask them to. There is a mass mentality that all of us possess traditionally. If you inspire citizens in the right direction, Iím sure they would love to be† part of the green movement. Divide the city in a modular fashion and each neighbourhood will become a planner for their area. Every neighbourhood should take an initiative.
How do we save the existing greenery in the city? Participation of the citizens will go a long way in still keeping this coastal city green. We need to start planting trees/plants in the spaces available in the city or in your backyard, if you have one. (Sadly, many live in apartments these days). All thatís required is to take small steps like this in your daily lives. If you are traveling in a vehicle carry a small plastic bag where you put your garbage rather than†out on the streets (Think of Swachh Bharath) and try maintaining a garden in your house or on the balcony of your apartment. Teach your kids the importance of conserving the environment.
There are many changes we can make in our daily lives from which a lot of people will benefit. Plant at least one tree as it is known to absorb one ton of carbon dioxide in its lifetime. Walk whenever possible and avoid the use of transport. Switch to reusable shopping bags. Yes, we should all be proud that Mangaluru is growing immensely - businesses are coming up, people are migrating into this city, apartments/high-rise buildings are being constructed to accommodate them, but†at the same time we should see that natural greenery is not lost. Let's not be greedy to construct buildings by killing greenery around. Period!