Friday, July 1, 2011

Who really killed Sankey Trees?

So much has been written about BBMP’s callousness in cutting down 17 hundred-year old trees along the Sankey road, but did BBMP really cut down those trees? No, they did not. They merely reacted to a situation that was caused by you and me. It was our refusal to adjust to the environment we live in, that cut down those trees. It was our hesitation to come out of the comfort of our personal vehicles and take public transport that cut down those trees. We will cause more trees to be cut in the future, as the roads can never be wide enough to support our relentless quest for prosperity and comfort.

Despite the amount of automation I am surrounded with, why am I never seem to be having enough time to do my daily chores? Despite the electronic and mechanical support I have, why am I still late for office? So if I have to make a final dash to the office at the nick of time, so that I do not miss that all important meeting, how can I waste my time waiting for a bus to take me to the office? I now have an excuse to use my personal vehicle, because I live a life that runs on a fast lane, and I never seem to be running fast enough to catch up with it. Not so long ago, my grocery shopping used to be done through a leisurely walk to the nearby corner shop on a lazy Sunday morning. Now I cannot stop my urge to take my car to a far away mall to buy my grocery in the comforts of a climate controlled world that malls offer. I need options to spend the extra savings that I have today, and that often induces a newfound need for me to be more mobile, and I need space. “Give way trees”.

Sankey Tank will never be the same again. The birds would have all flown away. The sun will hit hard on the pavements next summer. There will be no more flowers that will paint the road in different hues throughout the year. Closer to my home I used to enjoy a leisurely stroll along Suranjan Das Road (BEML Road) in the month of May as it was one of the most colourful roads in Bangalore during that time, thanks to the many Gulmohar trees that used to adorn the road in full bloom. Today this road has changed beyond recognition as all those trees have been razed away, to accommodate more IT-Park-bound cars. Elsewhere, the canopy above the Hosur Road from Richmond Road junction to Koramangala has thinned beyond recognition, to make the road wider at the belly, leaving the mouth of the road near Richmond Road as narrow as ever. What are we trying to address here? Were the trees cut to create parking space for the vehicles that wait for the signals to turn green so that they can squeeze ever so slowly past the bottlenecked exit out of this stretch? This is just a manifestation of the lack of planning that this city has been witnessing.

In the developed countries, there are 16 lane highways that are chockablock with vehicles. What does that suggest? Answer is simple: The wider the roads are the more vehicles that are going to pour in to those new-found spaces. So just how much is "wide enough"? Perhaps roads can never be wide enough. We will be cutting down more and more trees, as we need more space to swim the tide of this nation’s economic growth that far outpaces the infrastructure we have to support this growth. No one is going to question our complicity in this crime, because we have a great alibi to this crime: Economic growth.

So can economy and ecology ever coexist peacefully? Why should the trees be sacrificed at the altar of GDP? Can nation’s economic growth be achieved without sacrificing environment? Yes, it can, provided governments have the will and citizens have the inclination to protect nature. Lack of these two is a recipe for disaster. Like other Indian cities an ecological disaster is looming large over Bangalore horizons, unless we act soon.

BMTC has done a tremendous job to introduce Vajra (Volvo) bus service to lure the car-dependent passengers and it has succeeded to a great extent, going by the crowded Vajra buses that we see in Bangalore. As the city continue to grow, more needs to be done to expand this service. Today Vajra service is available mainly along the arterial roads. That is not attracting many potential passengers who are currently hesitant in taking bus, as the service is not available from their door steps. So including residential areas within these bus routes will ensure that most of these passengers will leave their cars at home and take the bus. High rise apartment complexes are only adding to the traffic woes due to the heavy concentration of car-dependent people living in a small land area. BMTC should connect with the builders or the owners of these high rise apartments so that bus services can be introduced linking these buildings. Metro railway is only going to address a small percentage of Bangalore population. Bus service should be improved in tandem with Metro so that there is a holistic solution in place to address the commuting needs of Bangaloreans. Proposed Metro feeder service would be an answer to this if it is implemented wisely.

Why not penalize a car driver if he is found driving along a busy corridor, if the car is not filled to capacity? This will definitely encourage car pooling. Many years ago London introduced the traffic congestion tax on certain busy areas of the city and it required a complex software to detect the traffic movement and charge the car owners accordingly. This software was developed by an Indian software firm. Why cannot we use our software prowess for the benefit of our own societies?

These are some of the questions that we need to answer if we need to prevent more trees being cut down in the name of road widening. So before we blame the authority for being callous, let us ask ourselves. What have we done to improve the traffic situation in Bangalore? As I sit down behind the wheel of my car to make yet another race to improve the GDP, over the graves of the trees that fell along the roadside, I do not even have the privilege to shed few tears. But then I guess a criminal should not ask for such privileges.


  1. So true and cannot agree more. With every passing day we can see more cars and less tress. Past one week we have had cutting of all the trees in the Rustam Bagh. Once which was a beautiful view is now probably a new place for a new mall or a office property.

  2. Cannot agree more. But am not sure if this would be a question of GDP/comfort. Stagnant GDP or low growth GDP is not helping farms or trees in Markham. Population growth could be one of reasons since Markham and Bangalore are both experiencing a lot of population growth.

  3. Added a bit more meat to this article as the original one was written in a jiffy.

    Siddharth, As the society becomes more affluent, the need for spending the excess savings increases. This induces greater need for mobility. Besides affluence also induces greater need for comfort resulting in more people ready to spend on expensive cars and fuel to take them around. This is what I alluded to by mentioning GDP. Yes, GDP is not a measure of the quality of living standards. In the case of Markham (and Canada in general), the society is already reached a certain standard of living, and it will continue to exert the same pressure on the environment though the economy as a whole is not growing, as it takes lot of personal will to come down from a certain standard of living for the cause of nature