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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bhopal Notes - 4: MP government's homage to MN Buch and Charles Correa

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MP Vidhan Sabha designed by Charles Correa
A few days back a report came out that would have gladdened the hearts of many. It said that the state government had taken a decision to maintain the basic identity of Bhopal as a measure of homage to the two departed stalwarts, MN Buch and Charles Correa, who had handsomely contributed to the identity of the city. One need not dilate on Late MN Buch; everyone who lives in Bhopal is aware of his contribution to the city. For those who do not know Charles Correa, he was the architect (engaged by the MP government on the recommendation of Late MN Buch) for designing the iconic Bharat Bhawan – a centre of arts and culture of national importance. Charles Correa, later, also designed the building for the state legislative assembly on top of the Arera Hill. By designing these two building Correa ushered in some kind of commonality between Boston and Bhopal. In Boston he designed several buildings including at least two in the world renowned MIT.

Greenery, hills, lakes and ponds of the town along with its heritage were close to the heart of Buch. He also tried to seamlessly connect the old and the new towns. The Master Plan for the city that he designed contained provision of maintenance of these elements to enable it to grow organically. Most of these, however, have been compromised by wrong planning or, perhaps, lack of it. He was unhappy about extension of the town in all directions without proper and convenient connectivity. He also spoke against development of Bhauri where, he said, there was inadequacy or even absence of water. That has proved to be true and a report recently had said that the government was thinking of tapping the Upper Lake for Bhauri’s water needs which would put the Lake under further stress. From the beginning he was against allotment of extensive agricultural lands for educational institutions in the catchments of the Upper Lake, including to the media house of Jagran which has now built an university there.

Now that substantial damage has been done precious little is possible. But one would be happy if the government, as a measure of homage to the two distinguished urban planners, is able to rethink its plans for the city and attempts to conform them to their visions as far as possible. It wouldn’t take much to actualise their visions for the city. It would suffice if greenery, apart from being maintained, is enhanced, the lakes of the city are scrupulously maintained and conserved observing the sanctity of its catchments and construction is banned on the hills around the city followed by a concerted effort to re-forest them.

But would the government be ever up to it? Although it seems to have taken the decision to act in accordance with the visions of Buch and Correa but one cannot really trust its intentions. For the last ten years or so we have been hearing the netas talking about conversion of the city into a Paris or a Singapore but it continues to be what it was – perhaps worse. It doesn’t take much to mouth assurances or talk tall. Ultimately, what matters is the achievement and that has been much, much below par. Although Bhopal is the capital of the state yet not one project has been successfully brought to fruition. Delays and corruption have been endemic and there are no perceptible signs of improvement. In fact, life of the denizens has progressively become difficult

 Not many would, therefore, trust the government when it comes to improvements in the city and in the quality of life of its people. The decision, therefore, can only be taken with bagfuls of salt.


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Photo: from the Internet  

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