Friday, June 15, 2007








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Save Delhi’s Trees, Do Not Sacrifice this heritage for transport
Created by Joseph Jose on 22nd May २००७

Open Appeal to the Hon'ble Chief Minister of DelhiDelhi without Roadside and Colony Trees is Unacceptable to its CitizensDear Hon'ble Chief Minister,As citizens of Delhi who have a long-term stake in the future of this city, we are writing to you to help save Delhi’s green heritage – its age-old trees that give the city its character and identity। Delhi's famed green lungs, the hundreds of thousands of trees that line the city’s roads, are today under brutal assault। Old trees, flowering trees, trees which provide shade to walkers and hawkers, children and adults, which protect the residents of colonies from noisy roads and polluting vehicles, trees which bloom in glorious colours in winter, summer, autumn and spring, which bring birds and their nests to our neighbourhoods, are being cut and hacked for transport corridors. People find that the trees they have grown up with have suddenly vanished one fine morning. ‘Someone’ is making decisions about our neighbourhoods, but those who live in those neighbourhoods are neither consulted about those decisions, nor informed about them.In recent months, thousands of healthy trees have been cut or dug out in the name of traffic de-congestion and projects such as the Delhi Metro and the High Bus Capacity Corridor. But this is not just another story of urbanisation in conflict with the environment. It is also the story of the loss of voice that people feel – people who have called this city their home for generations. It is a brutal reminder of the disenfranchising and top-down way that those at the helm are implementing policy. More specifically: 1. Delhi's entire landscape is changing at a mad pace and on an unprecedented scale with multiple types of constructions About 30,000 trees have already been cut for Metro Phase-I, National Highway Project, High Capacity Bus Service (HCBS), flyovers, underpasses, subways, and general road widening. The Metro has three more phases and the HCBS five more routes planned. For the HCBS, some 2500 trees will be removed in phase-1 alone, and many more in the subsequent five phases.2. By the time the 2010 Commonwealth Games start, a significant part of Delhi's green cover will disappear from its current locations, and many thousand trees would have died.3. The city’s parks are being converted into manicured spaces with no space for birds and other life forms. Some parks have been converted into tree-less parking lots.4. In Sunder Nursery alone the city will lose 1000 trees if the planned high-speed tunnel is constructed. The nursery is home to 114 tree species; many found nowhere else in Delhi.Trees are not an ‘add on’ to the city's design. They are intrinsic to Delhi's very identity and history. They are our children’s heritage. They provide nesting spaces for diverse bird life including black kites which perform critical functions earlier performed by vultures that have now disappeared. The house sparrow is also no longer to be seen. What will Delhi be without birds and birdsongs? Indeed, trees should be treated like the elderly in families – they need to be cherished and placed at the centre of all designs for the city. In fact, many old trees need to be given a heritage status since they are irreplaceable, no matter how many new trees may be planted in lieu. Yet in the blind march of so-called progress, trees are being uprooted, shunted out, old species allowed to die, replaced at best by decorative fast growing varieties or not at all. Many areas where the trees are being cut resemble a war zone with hundreds of trees on any stretch of road being tagged for death. The people living in these areas have been caught unawares and are in a state of shock. Suddenly, the trees that they and their children have lived with for decades are disappearing. Shouldn’t they be consulted before their green cover is destroyed?Procedurally, an infrastructure development project needs an environment impact assessment. This should involve an assessment of all environmental costs, including the number of trees to be cut for the project. Was this done for the Metro, or the HCBS, or other ongoing and proposed transport corridors? If so, these assessments need to be made public. As citizens we would also like to ask: where trees were cut, was compensatory afforestation done? If so how many trees were planted, of what species, at what locations? What was their survival rate? We believe afforestation done in some remote corner of the city cannot substitute for the loss of tree cover in the locations where people live. Were the residents compensated when the trees were cut?Undeniably, we need some solution for all those who commute long distances, including many of us. But we believe this does not have to be at the cost of these trees. We need more sane, less environmentally costly solutions. We would welcome alternatives which could accommodate the other legitimate needs of the city along with maintaining its tree lines. We the citizens of Delhi, strongly object to the mindless cutting of trees without due consultation or consideration. We object not only on environmental grounds but also because trees define Delhi's heritage, its historic identity, and our children’s common future.In a constructive spirit we would like to help find solutions. But these solutions need to fit the context and location. They cannot be in terms of one-solution-fits-all, decided unilaterally and imposed top-down.We urge the government to:1. Bring to an immediate halt all tree felling in the name of progress and development. Bring to an immediate halt all tree felling in the name of progress and development. Stop all felling of trees for the first HCBS corridor, from Ambedkar Stadium (Delhi Gate) to Ambedkar Nagar, till a transparent and participatory review taking on board the concerns raised in this letter takes place.2. To propose alternatives which marry the legitimate needs of the city along with the preservation of trees3. Set in place consultation mechanisms, which involve local residents, planners, and other concerned citizens, so that any tree cutting is subject to prior review.4. Make a full disclosure of the trees, which have been cut over the past three years, the locations of compensatory afforestation, their species, and their year-wise survival rate.5. Make a full disclosure of the trees slated to be cut now, the location specific justification for this for any transport corridor or road widening, and the efforts planned to avoid the cutting. 6. Have clear guidelines for leaving adequate space around trees to allow them to breathe and take in rain, where new roads are built. 7. Avoid the cutting of roadside and colony trees for other utilities in the city, and ensure that such plans accommodate and not destroy existing trees 8. Propose alternatives that marry the city’s legitimate needs with the preservation of trees.9. Ensure that all future infrastructure development integrates existing trees, and more generally enhances Delhi’s greenery and natural topography. Designs must be also friendly for pedestrians, cyclists and children, the disabled and the elderly.10. Ensure accountable and transparent processes in designing and executing projects like the Metro, HCBS, flyovers, etc. Citizen participation must be integrated into the decision-making process from the project’s inception.

Delhi court bans cycle rickshaws

By John Sudworth, BBC News, Delhi
The cycle rickshaw, the ubiquitous symbol of urban transport in India, has run into a pot hole.
The authorities in the capital, Delhi blame the three-wheeled taxi-bike for causing congestion and have decided to ban it from part of the city centre.
But transport campaigners say it's a backwards step.
Many European cities, they argue, are beginning to view the rickshaw as part of the solution.
Not in Delhi though. Along Chandni Chowk, the bustling main thoroughfare in the heart of the old city, there are wall-to-wall rickshaws, often riding three abreast.
"We're poor people, so what else can we do?" Dravida, rickshaw puller
The problem it seems is that they are just too popular.
"The traders along Chandni Chowk went to the High Court and submitted that the rickshaws cause a lot of traffic problems," says Deep Mathur from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
"They make it very difficult for the fast moving vehicles to pass. They stand in clusters and create congestion."
Now, as the result of the order from the High Court, they are to be banned from Chandni Chowk.
Moral basis
The authorities say they will enforce the order and replace the rickshaws with an environmentally-friendly, battery-powered bus service.
"We're poor people, so what else can we do?" asks one rickshaw-puller, Dravida.
"If we can't do this we will have to turn to crime or return to our villages."
There are an estimated 2,500 rickshaws plying their trade along Chandni Chowk.
Madhu Kishwar is a social activist who is helping the drivers protest against the ban.
"Cycle rickshaws are now plying in Oxford, London, Paris and Singapore. In Delhi the consumers need them for transport, the pullers need them as a source of income, what business has the government to ban them?," she says.
In fact London is considering introducing a system of licensing for cycle rickshaws.
This will give them a form of official status that is making taxi drivers very unhappy. They also want them banned from the city centre.
"There are some quite steep inclines in central London," says Bob Oddy from the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association.
"When the rickshaws are pedalling up hill they leave a line of buses, taxis and other cars behind them. It seems to me Delhi is doing the right thing," he adds.
"They're moving forward while London is moving backwards."
The authorities in Delhi say there are other areas where the cycle rickshaws are free to continue working.
But campaigners like Madhu Kishwar say there is a principle at stake.
"A parked car is a dead use of space, but the cycle rickshaw provides service to at least a hundred people per day, and it gives employment to the puller, the owner, and the repairman," she says.
"If you don't have any restriction on the number of cars in this city, on what moral basis can you restrict rickshaws?"

Monday, June 4, 2007




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