Saturday, July 02, 2011

The urban dilemma: Save trees or build infrastructure

In recent days there has been lot of discussion, rallies, legal action against tree felling as the local administrators move aggressively to improve infrastructure in our garden city of Bangalore or Bengaluru. Which is more important or what does one pick when the twin goals conflict?

I confess right at the start that I prefer trees to pretty much anything else. They are the reason Bangalore is what it is today and we should try our utmost to retain that unique city ambiance.

But I cannot help asking myself, how much of a hypocrite am I, considering that I too need and enjoy so much of that very same development that I am vehemently against. Take for example, the apartment I am living in. I believe a nice Mangrove was destroyed by the developers in 1999 to build the complex. Every time I go to a new mall or take a drive on the new roads, I feel guilty. Were they worth the trees and open space that was lost?

If we look at it in an unbiased way, we can see that both are essential in different ways. Trees to retain the ambiance and provide a healthy atmosphere while a growing city constantly requires infrastructure.

What is the right balance between conservation of urban greenery and development then?

Lets look at the following statement. True of false?

We can potentially cut all the trees and widen roads to the max extent along with flyovers and underpasses. Parks can all be made into parking lots or malls or office spaces. City can be with absolutely no greenery anywhere.

Possible? Imagine being able to park easily, drive comfortably on flyovers everywhere with no leaves or falling branches. A lot of down towns in large cities are already like that.

Tough to counter convincingly, I feel.

It is mostly a strong gut instinct for me on why I think the above will be a disaster. Still, some points(facts?) I could come up with to support my position:

- No trees! No breeze and it may get too hot even to step outside.
- Sounds of the city may increase tremendously as trees absorb a lot of it now.
- Pollution could potentially increase many times without trees to absorb some of the dust particles leading to dangerous health concerns.
- It could be very bad for our health when we lose *all* the oxygen producing trees/plants while at the same time increasing co2 producing cars.
- Critical bio-diversity will be lost. Birds which need the trees to survive and also play a part by eating insects and rodents will not be able to survive.

Any more?

I feel there is a hard balance somewhere which if we cross by reducing greenery below that level we will cause the city to die a slow death. It is imperative that it is known and kept in consideration when the city administrators work on infrastructure projects where greenery needs to be sacrificed. They should always look for solutions which does not lead to reduction in greenery and err on the cautious side which is to sacrifice infrastructure for conservation.

More greenery or open spaces is never harmful. Less is what we should be worried about as they can never be re-created!


Pushpa said...

dear nanda, this blog of yours made me dig up a poem by a favorite blogger in sulekha. do read her.


Nanda said...

Nice one. It summarizes my whole article with just one illuminating fact, eh? :) Sad, but sometimes I feel it is impossible to stop or even change the course of the inevitable "progress". It has to reach its destined peak when it will become so bad that even the most die-hards will realize their folly and set the course back to a more holistic balance.