Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 16, December 1-15, 2019
Trees have never had it so bad, or so good, depending on which way you look at it. On the one hand, everywhere from Aarey Milk Colony, Mumbai, to the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Egmore, they are being cut down in the name of development. On the other hand, all of this felling, which would have otherwise passed unnoticed, has made it to the news, with environmentalists and lay nature-lovers crying foul. Trees evoke emotions these days. The question however is, can expansion of civic services be forever held back in the name of protecting nature? Or is there some other way out?
In the case of Aarey Milk Colony, the trees had to make way for a Metro Rail shed. By the time the matter reached the courts and a stay was pronounced, as many as 1,000 trees had been cut down. The Egmore Eye Hospital had a happier outcome though the area and the numbers of trees involved (four acres with 75 trees) were much smaller. The persons filing the public interest litigation were local residents and so, in a way, stakeholders.The Courts have ordered a stay and the trees are safe, for now. Could the Metro Rail shed have been located elsewhere? Perhaps. Could the Egmore Eye Hospital have planned its new structures in a different part of the campus? Certainly, for there is ample space available. Then why did it chose only the tree-shaded part of its premises? We will never know. We need to however be thankful that because this was a government-owned premises, news of plans to deforest came to be known in advance. Had it been a private property, or had the space been cleared for a party meeting, would there have been any time to approach the courts?
How can the Government prevent such occurrences in future? It can, in a way, take a leaf out of what has been done in matters concerning heritage buildings. The High Court had in 2010 or thereabouts, ordered that 468 buildings be listed and that the CMDA appoint a committee to look into whether they needed to be preserved. While what followed was largely disappointing, it cannot be denied that demolition of heritage structures has become a little more difficult than what it was in the past. True, a few owners have managed to get around this restriction but they have done so after taking recourse to due process of law. While we may lament the destruction of buildings such as Binny’s, Gordon Woodroffe and D’Angeli’s, we cannot deny that the decision to demolish was arrived at by the Government after some consideration and study.
The T. Nagar Pedestrian Plaza has just been inaugurated under the aegis of the Smart City project. The project kicked off in mid-2018 and, at an outlay of Rs. 33.8 crores, it has been completed in eighteen months, except for the planned multi-level car park. Similar Pedestrian Plazas are to be constructed in Velachery, Anna Nagar and Tondiarpet.
T. Nagar’s Plaza stretches from the Thanikachalam Road-Theyagaroya Road intersection to Panagal Park junction. The original vehicular road has been narrowed down to accommodate just a one-way traffic towards Panagal Park, allowing cars to park on the left. The space thus released has broadened the walking paths on either side of the one-way road. Pedestrian walkways are smoothly paved; they’re equipped with benches and bollards to prevent two-wheeler invasion, as well as ramps for easy movement of pedestrians from road to pavement and vice versa.
Last month, The Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and Urban Thinkers Campus held a two-day convention focused on Making Chennai Water Positive. The meet featured addresses from an assorted panel of experts and dignitaries from corporate, administrative, educational and non-profit sectors, providing attendees with a wide perspective on the challenges involved in resolving Chennai’s water crisis in a sustainable, comprehensive manner. The convention helped throw light on the city’s status quo and scrutinized a multitude of solutions ranging from desalination and water reclamation to policy changes like Maharashtra’s mandated reuse of wastewater for non-potable purposes such as cooling thermal power plants and other industrial uses.
Speaking at the inaugural plenary, Mr. Andrew Rudd, Urban Environment Officer of the UN Habitat, India, pointed out that the past year has underscored the
To many in Chennai, December is synonymous with Carnatic music. But for around 23 years or so, between 1918 and 1941, there was much of the art to be enjoyed in summer too. This was due to the Summer School of Music, which convened each year during the months of May and June. It did not have any fixed premises, and met at places such as the YMCA, Esplanade and Royapettah, the Presidency College, and the Hindu and Kellett High Schools, both at Triplicane.
The Summer School had much to do with evangelical activity. The Rev. Herbert Arthur Popley was attached to the London Missionary Society and had arrived in Madras Presidency