Building or heritage?

The plan to build a seven-storey structure in Cubbon Park may take a further toll on Bengaluru’s already shrunk lungspace. By Sathya Prakash Varanashi

This ‘Green Sense’ essay has to sadly lament about the increasing lack of ‘sense of green’ among the decision takers and urban authorities, who appear to be in a mad rush to build on every piece of land available to build upon.

Last fortnight media was abuzz with the controversial news about the High Court of Karnataka allowing replacing a colonial building with heritage qualities with a new swanky 7-storey structure, edging the Cubbon Park. The park itself, one among the only two lung spaces of Bengaluru, is not only a precinct of natural heritage but also of innumerable events in the memory and history of the city.

Both the natural and built heritage of Bengaluru are at peril with the proposed construction.

Of course, Bengaluru today is a world city, a great achievement, but on the graves of what was Bangalore. More often than not, the majority of builders, residents, leaders and the authorities seem to be in a rat race to erase the invisible, natural and built heritage of the once fabled city, replacing it with the visible, image makingprojects of infrastructure, etc.

A simple truth even a high school student can understand is that constructions increase urban heat and gardens reduce urban heat. Construction activities contribute to nearly one-third of all global greenhouse gases, so directly cause global warming and climate change.

Bengaluru has been warming up at an alarming rate with innumerable heat islands within; so the time now is not for continuing the mindless construction activity that has already taken a toll on the once garden city.

Glaring examples

Developing a settlement as a sustainable city cannot be achieved by the subject experts; incidentally they are the least capable of doing so. Urban issues need to be equally participated, managed and decided by the people, politicians, administrators and experts. Cases like building in Cubbon Park are glaring examples to prove the state of affairs today, where the four are never brought together through participatory administration, transparency, stakeholders’ meet, public survey or any of them.

These four are the four pillars of urban administration, but sadly the people in power do not think so and go ahead as if only their voice matters. Of course practically speaking, in democracy people decide their leaders and the leaders decide for the people. But theoretically, people still have the power to decide on matters concerning them.

Hence, the Cubbon Park project enraged people who reacted and protested. If the very first act of governance is taken on consensus, there would not have been any need to react, protest or resist.

As an individual or institution, we all seek to own our own buildings once we have the site, money and may be the need. We do not cherish being in a rented place for too long, so justify every building project. The local governance refers only to rules and regulations to allow or disallow a project, never looking beyond into its ecological impact, local nuisances, impact on flora/fauna, matters of water table, cultural value, people’s memory, increased load on urban services, ripple effects of the new building, holding capacity of the area or any such deep matter.

Carbon footprint

Naturally, Bengaluru gets hundreds of buildings all over its geographical spread, as if the city can absorb all. It all sounds fair, but sorry, no city can and should grow like this, however beneficial it could be for a few people in the process.

The carbon footprint of Bengaluru could be matching that of any other energy guzzling global city today, making it a villain of the Earth.

If a sense of garden prevails among our authorities, now is the time to slow down, restrict or even judiciously stop construction activities. Only then can we hope future generations would be able to live in a liveable city.

(The author can be contacted at [email protected])

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