Thursday, 10 February 2011

Bulldozing the Green Drive (Thanjavur)

"Going Green" has been a mantra, India seems to echo in every trend. The people of Bangalore want the Garden City back. The Government recently banned the use of plastic sachets for tobacco. Environmental initiatives have been aplenty. The impression that civic sense was returning, echoed through.  We have a cabinet minister, acting as an environmental crusader, Jairam Ramesh.

Living in Thanjavur, with 'The Big Temple', as a tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage site, I have been witness to the creation of new infrastructure. The National Highway links, have finally been made four-lane and bypass the city actually. Within the municipality, though, the roads next to my home have, for quite some time not been built (just after a starting a rain-water harvesting drive, and a proper sewer system that hadn't already been planned.)

The Green is gone!
Driving through the G. A. Canal road [google maps, satellite], a portion which had been made green and maintained earlier as an initiative of people with good civic sense; I saw all the greenery gone! Fences preventing people from misusing the canal as an open-air toilet, a garden that stood bordering the canal had been pulled out. This was no urbanisation, uprooting trees, but rather a misinformed and misdirected initiative. The greenery bordering the  road had all just disappeared! I had no idea, what strangeness chanced upon this place leaving it barren, devoid of all greenery.

I learnt later, that this was some urban development drive. "Some urban development drive," indeed. Is our sense of development so obscure and misdirected? Are people supposed to resume using this as an open-air toilet? (Shamefully, that was the case, at least two decades back.) On later enquiry, I learnt that the banks of the canal were being maintained as a garden by citizens of Thanjavur.

Once Green
A Saint once said, "It is impossible for us to sense God; for as human beings, we sense what is, and suddenly is not - like 'light' and 'darkness' (the lack of it); How can we know God, when he always is." That is wisdom indeed.

We ignore nature, and fail to notice initiatives that make our world a better place. It was quite difficult to find a photograph of the same, before this happened. As luck had it, I managed to find quite a few. The road, happens to be frequented by tourists as it is home to a hotel, and is geographically, quite close to the 'The Brahadeeshwarar Temple', our World Heritage Site (map).

Stranger, was the fact, that press had most ignored any mention of it whatsoever. Not a word had been published on any of the local dailies. "Free Speech" and "Expression" for the citizen, it seemed were blissfully forgotten.

The "Bulldozing the Green" drive
I inquired further, and found photographs taken when they had bulldozed through all this. They had done this on the 24th of January, 2011, just a day before the world's eyes trained on Egypt. I had driven past at least a dozen times, and had failed to notice all the greenery and the neatness with which it was maintained.

If they were planning an initiative to make the town greener, this definitely wasn't what I was expecting. Upon further search, I found that such urban "green demolition" (mumbai) was not uncommon.

To the outside world, Thanjavur is supposed to be the "rice bowl" of South India. Bangalore was the "Garden City". What is the legacy, that we can leave to the children of the future: Cars, Mobile Phone towers, Technology, Patents or the protection of nature?