Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Greening along the roads


Sher Shah Suri
Nitin Gadkari, the new minister for highways has decided to walk the same road as Sher Shah Suri, the Pushtoon who wrested the Indian empire from the Moguls more than six centuries ago. Sher Shah is known to have built the Grand Trunk Road from Patna to Delhi and had planted trees all along it for the benefit of the travelers. Gadkari, likewise, has taken a decision to plant 2 billion trees along the hundreds of thousands of kilometers of highways in the country. This, he perhaps rightly claims, would be of help in improving the environment, provide shade to travellers along barren stretches and afford employment to villagers. Gadkari has proposed to entrust the job of planting and taking care of the saplings to the nearby village women’s self help groups. The plan is to plant useful trees that also yield some income to the villagers. If the project materialises it would be a win-win situation for all concerned, more particularly for the villagers who have a highway passing close by.

One would like to wish Gadkari success in his endeavour. He, incidentally, is the person who, as a minister in Maharashtra, had the the Bombay-Pune expressway completed in record time.

Nitin Gadkari
This should be of interest to us as well in Bhopal. Whereas the Centre is contemplating greening of the country's highway system here in Bhopal the local municipality has denuded the city of thousands of trees for creating the BRTS corridor. Having accomplished that, it refuses to re-green the city's roadsides just because it claims to have done compensatory plantation far away out of the town on a hill. Its authorities have completely missed out on the concept of developing roadside greenery, especially in a hot country like ours. Bhopal consistently saw this summer temperatures of above 45 degrees Celsius for days together – a very unusual occurrence for a city known once for its salubrious climate.

I might add that the BRTS corridor is the single most important factor for this unusual occurrence. What is more, the corridor has ceased to be meant for rapid transit of BRTS buses as it has been disrupted in the New Market area for the sake of ensuring adequate returns for the businesses being plied from there. As if that is not enough, the corridor ceases to exist in the Main (Link) Road No 1 whenever the politicians decide to have a bash at their residences located along the road. The corridor becomes the parking lot on such occasions for guests of the ministers.

One therefore tends to ask whether sacrifice of so many old, mature and fully grown trees was worth it. Perhaps better traffic management would have obviated that necessity. In any case, the Traffic Police have suddenly become active in abolishing the corridor in the New Market, reportedly, on the instructions of its political bosses. But, even if felling so many trees was necessary, the municipality should see its way through to bring back the lost greenery along the BRTS route as soon as possible.

Perhaps the municipality will make amends and commence re-greening of the sides of the arterial roads.

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