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Showing posts with label Pollution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pollution. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How green is your city?


The last hundred years have been the most astonishing for the human civilization. We exponentially moved from being simple folk to sophisticated people. Technology has advanced to such an extent that we need to go out of our homes – rather sit in a room and manage everything from business to laundry.
These hundred years saw the biggest mass exodus of people from rural areas into cities. The city provided them with a vision of a successful future – to be rich and famous. Industries and business established themselves around them, housing blocks sprung up like trees in a forest, cars and busses flooded their roads – this was any city, and where money flowed like water.
Hundred years later, big cities still attract people. Industries still building more plants, everyday hundreds of cars add to the already congested roads – however bad, the city life still charms many.
Technological advancements have made us conscious about our lives. Health is an important concern that we carry. Hygienic food, clean water and unsullied air are luxuries we yearn about – but we are deprived of all three at times!
So do you live in a healthy city? Is your city green?
Introspect on the following points and find out!
  • A public park in each residential area:

A public park is an area that is full of greenery and has facilities for recreational activities for residents of all ages. The biggest ‘green’ advantage of a park in an area is that it helps contain the high pollution levels and provides cleaner air, and cooler temperatures to its residents.
Now consider your city – does it have a park in every area?
If yes, give it one point!
  • Factories must be away from residential areas:

 Factories are an important source of localized pollution – both air and water. By establishing industrial areas away from residential zones, localized concentration of effluents can be prevented. This in turn would aid in ensuring good health amongst the citizens.
Is the industrial area of your city away from the residential areas?
If yes, give it another point!
  • Bus terminals should be away from the city, but not far away:

If the bus terminals are inside the city, they increase traffic congestion and result in greater vehicular emissions – more pollution! It also increase noise pollution through constant hoot of these giant vehicles.
On the other hand if the bus terminals are located far away from residential areas, then more fuel would be burnt to reach them.
Now this one’s a tough one.
Decide carefully whether to give your city another point or not.
  • A good public transport system:

Having a well-connected and well-established public transport system reduces vehicular pollution and traffic congestion (and its associated problems), as people tend leave their personal vehicles at home.
This one’s easy to judge.
So go ahead and continue the count.
  • No car zone in trade hub:

A commercial zone / trade hub is generally the busiest most populated part of the city during business hours. Most traders or customers tend to bring their personal cars to work / finish their shopping. Parking becomes a big problem, and many a time most of the road is taken up by parked vehicles. This increases traffic jams and as a result increases vehicular emissions resulting in greater localized pollution.
Is the trade hub in your city car free?
If yes, your city has won another point!
  • Strict building construction norms:

Building construction norms must be environmentally friendly and strictly implemented. For examples, all buildings must have their own sufficient parking spaces; have efficient energy consumption systems; good ventilation etc. Unsustainable construction should be banned.
Go ahead, and judge your city. Does it get another point?
  • Ample space for walking:

A green city must have adequate foot path, walkways, skywalk etc. to aid people commute locally by foot. These pathways must be clean and well maintained. No parking or vending should be allowed on them.
Now, this one’s simple.
Did your city just gain an important point?
  • Separate lane for bikers:

This is applicable only for developing countries where motorcycles and bicycles are a widely used mode of transport. Having a separate lane for bikers would help increase safety standards on the road. It also helps decrease traffic congestion.
So are bikers safe in your city?
If yes, add another point to the tally.
  • Effective garbage collection and disposal system:

Now this is a very important system. An effective garbage collection and disposal mechanisms has many advantages particularly with respect to health. Accumulated heaps of garbage are excellent breeding grounds for bacteria, viruses and rodents – all of which cause diseases.
Do you have a good garbage handling system?
If yes, this one’s a big plus point. Add one to the tally again.
  • Efficient sewage water treatment plant:

 An efficient sewage treatment plant has many advantages – from reducing fresh water demand to preventing soil / water body pollution. An excellent drainage system, without any leaks is an integral part of this mechanism.
A little hard to judge, but then go ahead.
Now you have thought about it, judged your city and assigned it points for various parameters. It’s time to pronounce the judgment.

Enter your city’s name and the points out of ten against it in the comments section below. (For example: XYZ city – 5/10)
Let’s compare our cities and may this exercise help us plan and improve ours’.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

8 ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Ever calculated your carbon footprint?
Is it too large?
Confused how to reduce it?
Well, below are 10 ways of reducing your carbon emissions while living a luxurious and a comfortable life!
Buy old / vintage:
It may be an old jacket or a set of old chairs, buying vintage is always nature friendly as it eliminates the carbon emissions that go with the production of a new similar item. Please note: Avoid buying old electronic goods though, as they end up consuming more electricity – which means more emissions.
Buy locally grown / sourced food:

Buying locally grown vegetables helps the local farmer grow better and may even improve the local economy. Sourcing food a location involves transportation. The commercial transportation industry is one the largest polluters in the world. Yes, by eating locally we would harm their business, but look at the bright side – You are indirectly helping the world go green!
Have a green wedding!
Am I going a bit too far?
Did you know an average wedding creates 16 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions?
Relax, I am not advising you to go for Tofurkey canap├ęs or vegan wedding shoes! Instead register for energy certified gifts, or make your invitation card from old recycled wool or cotton. You might end up saving a lot as well!
Simple living
Are you living alone in a six bedroom mansion in a suburban area? Do you drive all the way to an office that’s inside the city?  Consider simplifying your life.
Shit to a smaller house near your office (might end up being expensive) and use public transport. Large houses use far more carbon to light it up / keep it warm than smaller condos. Using the public transport has widely known benefits that I need not elaborate on.
Wear a Cashmere sweater
Did you know 12% the world’s sulfur dioxide emissions and 1 billion metric tons of carbon emissions come from home heating systems?
This winter, buy a cashmere sweater and turn down the heating a bit. Say you keep the thermostat at 70 degrees, make it 65. This way you reduce your carbon emissions and end up reducing your heating bill by 10%
Buy carbon offsets
Well, this one’s only for those super rich folks who can afford a private / chartered jet!
Yes, all your rich folks, please buy carbon offsets before making those trips on luxurious trips. The money you pay for buying carbon offsets go into planting trees, developing greener solutions, starting clean energy harnessing stations etc. In this way you are not guilty of all the bad gasses that shoot out of your jet’s engines!
Drive an electric / hybrid
Now, I still vouch for public transportation – it’s the greenest.
But if you still have to use a car everyday – buy a hybrid or even better an electric.
And please – CAR POOL!
Switch off the lights

Its human nature to preserve what is ours and show lacksidal interest in what is not ours. We are always careful to switch off the lights in our homes – because we pay the bills.
But what are we that conscious about the lights at our office or at public places.
‘Switch off as you go’ should be our motto. It’s not about paying bills, but about reducing the carbon emissions that go into producing the electricity that lights up these buildings.
Ready to make a difference?
All set to go green?

All the best! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Wake up Mangalore... or be damned! - Book launch


Royston Fernandes, author of “Shall We Save the Earth” unveiled his second book on climate change - adaptation and mitigation. The book is written exclusively for the people of Mangalore with a global perspective. Royston speaks of the struggles that ordinary Mangaloreans would endure due to climate change in the next few years.
 

The book was released by Ms. Vidya Dinkar an eminent environmentalist and social activist who reminded the gathering about the irony of the situation wherein on one end of Mangalore a book that speaks of conservation and preservation is unveiled at the other end the government representatives are inaugurating a petrochemical project that would gradually turn Mangalore into a petrochemical export hub. This would not only destroy the surrounding ecology but also leave the thriving ‘Mogaveera’ community of Mangalore who are predominantly fishermen, into a perilous situation.


Mr. Eric Ozario – social and cultural activist from Mangalore was also present at the event as a patron. He remembered Nelson Mandela and quoted Malcom Muggeridge saying “Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream” to encourage and inspire Royston on his journey which he described as a “way of the cross.”

The book was unveiled in an unusual manner. The guests were treated to a sight of a jar (buyao/bharani) on the podium. The event’s compere Mr. Eric Ozario explained that the jar was a symbol of preservation as it is quite common for Mangaloreans to prepare for the rainy season with jars filled with pickle stashed away in the attic. He said since the book speaks about preservation this is perhaps the most fitting welcome it deserves. Ms. Vidya Dinkar then unveiled the book and presented it to the audience.

The book has been published by Notionpress Chennai and is available for sale online at Flipkart, Bookadda, Amazon and on the publisher website. All proceeds from the book would be used to fund activities aimed at educating the common man about climate change.


Written by – J.Marian.D’Souza

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our 5 big mistakes!

Wasting water:

We have always taken water for granted. Ask a child ‘Where does the water come from?’ and you will receive a quick answer ‘From the tap!’
Leaving the taps running while scrubbing the dishes, leaving the water flowing while washing clothes, taking a shower for half an hour, using more than one tank full of water to flush the toilet, not recycling waste water, not practicing rain water harvesting – we are guilty of it all!
An estimated 1/3rd of the world’s population live in countries that are severely water strained. And yet it is disheartening that those in access of adequate water misuse it. We have so perfected the art of misusing water resources that in the process we have created deserts, poisoned water bodies and drained ground water tables.
I live in Bangalore. This cosmopolitan city of 10 million is at times severely water strained during summer. And I witness the drilling of at least one bore well in my locality every week. Our search for water has led us to nearly 1500ft below the surface. And it seems we are all willing to dig deeper. But in this acclaimed city I do not see adequate drainage and recycling mechanisms. I do not see concern and vision in both the people and the government officials. It’s a pitiable scene out here.
In the city of Chennai, the official claim is that only 19 of the 28 water bodies can be restored. NASA’s imagery has revealed that Middle East’s water bodies are fast disappearing. We today can count the last remaining free flowing major rivers of Europe using just one hand. And yes we made one of the world’s largest lakes, the 68000sq km Aral Sea disappear!
Taking water for granted – our first mistake.

Excessive fishing

I hail from the coastal city of Mangalore – famous for its fishing industry. I grew up watching mammoth trawlers haul in tons of fish load, processing plants tinning the fish for export and ice factories making merry.
Fishing has been one of the oldest occupations of mankind. It was always a very lucrative and rewarding profession that drew more and more people towards it. Today this trend has breached the sustainability limit. Technological advancements have made us go into deeper waters for longer periods with larger, meaner trawlers. In fact we have so exploited these benefits that today the global fishing fleet is 2.5 times larger than what the oceans can sustain-ably support. As of this day 52% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited and 24% are over exploited! We have so exploited our coastlines that we are now towards those of poorer countries. Of course they won’t question our move or motive! We give them pittance via our aid programs. In the course of the last 60 years we have practically destroyed the fishing industry. We are now harvesting smaller younger fish thus damaging the breeding mechanisms.
The coup-de-grace of all this is that we are getting less food from the sea, damaging nature’s delicate balance and destroying a thousand year old industry. Remember the cod collapse in the Grand Banks in Canada – 40,000 people were suddenly unemployed!
Over fishing – our second mistake.

Introducing species

Throughout history man has traveled and explored the globe in his quest for various worldly possessions. And more often than not, man entered into this quest for a new land to deal with shortage of arable land back home (mostly destroyed by unscientific over agriculture). And as a result of these adventures, man discovered new continents, inhabited them and called them his new home.
The moment man started living in his new found home, he started observing his surroundings. At times he didn't like what he saw. Native plants appeared to be weeds and native animals / insects to be rodents. He remembered that back home he had a natural solution to problems like this. Thus he introduced new species of flora and fauna from his previous home here. And yes initially it did eat everything he didn't like, but slowly it started eating even what he liked! His solution turned into a problem. He was back to square one!
Confused? 
Rabbits were introduced in Australia as a source of food in farms. They were soon released into the wild by Europeans who missed their usual hunting adventures. The result – rabbits are officially called pests in Australia. When man discovered the islands of Mauritius, Fiji and Hawai’i he was confronted with an uncontrollable rat infestation. To counter this he introduced the Small Indian Mongoose. But soon, many other species of animals inhabiting these islands fell prey to the fast moving mongooses leaving them ‘locally extinct’. We have similarly introduced species in other corners of the world thus meddling with the delicate local ecological balance.
Invasive species – our third mistake.

Chemicals, Toxins and Pollutants

The 21st century is heralded as an era of innovation, technological advancement and better lives. In our search for a better, healthier and peaceful life we have invented, utilized and misused numerous chemicals and toxins in the form of cleaning agents, pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, medicines etc. Today we are dependent on a range of chemicals which on the plus side offer a lot of benefits and comfort to our lives. But alarmingly most of these chemicals have severe damaging effects not just on the flora and fauna around us, but also on our health and those of our children.
Between the year 1930 and 2000, the production of man-made chemicals increased from 1 million tons to 400 million tons annually. The amount of pesticides sprayed on crops has increased 26 times in the last 50 years.
In the course of this lifetime we have polluted water bodies, poisoned the soil around us and intoxicated our own food! We have messed up badly and got it all wrong.
Chemicals, toxins and pollutants – our fourth mistake.

Climate change

The most debated topic today, the question of our survival. Will be brace this storm?
The IPCC reports time and again have categorically put the blame of climate change on the selfish attitude and demeanor of mankind.


Global warming and climate change – our final mistake!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Save the last boulevard of Mangalore - The story

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Mangalore boasted of many a stretch of roads lined with trees, which not only contributed immensely to its beauty, but also provided clean air for the citizens to breathe, shade for them to enjoy, apart from keeping the temperature under control.  Of course, many a times, due to the sheer callousness of the corporation authorities, the roads themselves, like all other roads under its jurisdiction, were decorated with potholes, making the lives of the motorists quite miserable.

This misery continued for long.  The good, decent citizens of Mangalore suffered quietly and hardly complained.  But due to the efforts of a few individuals and organizations, and their constant efforts, the authorities were forced to act.


To their good fortune, the present Government in the state provided `100 crore to concretize and widen Mangalore roads.  It’s a well-known fact that the builders’ lobby had a great role to play in drawing up a map to identify the roads to be concretized / widened.  Needless to say that in all this, the builders’ interests were always the priority and the citizens’ interests and the ecological fall out was never a consideration.

Sick and tired of unmotorable potholed roads, the idea of concrete roads came as a relief to the harassed citizens and they thought that the felling of trees, many a times indiscriminately was the price they had to pay for progress.  But when felling of trees became evidently unnecessary and rampant, and when they began to realize that the price they were paying for progress was disproportionate to its benefits; they began to raise their voices in protest.

It was also realized that in most cases, the authorities were acting arbitrarily, disregarding norms and procedures, bypassing legal preconditions laid down; and especially with regard to the felling of trees, the rule of obtaining permission from the ‘Tree Officer’, Forest Dept. (which is  a must), was flouted more often than not.

On the Lady Hill – Mannagudda stretch, because people protested, trees were saved and the authorities were even forced to transplant a full grown tree.  In front of Infosys and in Shedigugdda, because people protested, the roads were constructed around the trees.  In front of Saibeen Complex, when people protested, the authorities assured them that 4 trees would be planted in the vicinity behind every tree felled.  This assurance has not been honoured.  The trees in the Kadri Park area, next to the former Snake Park were saved thanks to people’s protest.  Rev. Fr. Leo D’souza is credited with the saving of many trees alongside the court road.

As huge financial benefits are at stake, despite people’s resistance, at the behest of the stakeholders, the authorities continued to bulldoze trees standing in their way.  That someone made millions felling these trees and selling the timber is also a point to be noted.

Then it was the turn of the trees on the last boulevard standing – to be axed……

THE STORY OF THE STRUGGLE TO SAVE THE LAST BOULEVARD OF MANGALORE.

On Aug. 29, 2009, - the people of Mangalore woke up to see concrete median stumps planted all along the road starting from Fr. Muller’s (Kankanady) right up to the Nandigudda circle.  Together, they also saw that trees, numbering 45 were boldly marked.  The median stumps zigzagged on the existing road.  It was evident that the trees were marked for felling.  As the citizens were not informed and as there were no boards announcing what  the authorities intended to do,  (which is a must, legally), alarm bells rang and people spontaneously gathered at Valencia circle, to make sense of what was happening.  In their opinion – the existing road was one of the broadest in Mangalore (apart from being one of the most beautiful, because of the trees), and certainly broad enough to ensure a smooth flow of traffic and felling of trees just to concretize this road was not only uncalled for, but criminal.  So, they decided that they would invite the D.C. (the overseer of the ‘100 Crore Project’) and the Corporation authorities (the project holders), to the spot, to explain.

On Sun., Aug. 30 – people in large numbers once again gathered at the Valencia Circle, at 9 in the morning and waited for the D.C. and the Corporation authorities to arrive.  After a while, the D.C. accompanied by the Mangalore City Corporation Development Consultant (who, we learnt is actually representing the Builders’ lobby and who in effect was dictating the course of the implementation to serve the builders’ interests), arrived.

The D.C. was polite, and in his polished manner was trying to explain the need to broaden the existing road keeping in mind future development.  People assured him that they were not against progress, but voiced their concerns.  ‘Progress at what cost?’ they asked.  They also pointed out that the existing road (without having to cut trees) was as broad, if not broader than the Kankanady-Highland-Falnir-Hampankatta road, on which the traffic was 10 times more, and hence what was the need to broaden the road further?  The people also questioned the wisdom of the authorities in causing long-term and permanent environmental damage by cutting trees (which would never be replaced despite solemn promises), by enticing people with the short term benefits.  The D.C. seemed to see the point and even suggested that the plan could be redrawn to save the trees.

At that point the MCC Dev. Consultant went on the offensive and even challenged the people as to what they could do, because, he said - money power, political power and Government machinery was on their side.  A verbal confrontation ensued, at the end of which, the arrogant MCC Dev. Consultant had to beat a hasty retreat in the face stiff opposition, and the D.C. conceded to the demand of the gathering that they had a right to know and he directed the Dev. Consultant to explain the plan in detail.  As a result, a meeting was fixed.

On Sept. 1, 2009 - Around 300 people gathered at the Roshini Nilaya auditorium, to learn about the plan from the authorities and also to chalk-out the future course of action.  The meeting was chaired by Dr. Olinda Pereira, the respected social worker of Mangalore.

Shri Dharmaraj, the Development Consultant of MCC (who, that day looked very much subdued), explained the plan.  However he failed to convince the gathering as to the need to cut trees.  He also ultimately conceded that the plan could be redesigned to save trees.  Accordingly, the gathering deputed Shri Venkatesh Pai, an architect, to discuss the issue with Shri Dharmaraj, redraw the plan and report back.

In the meantime, a call was given for everyone to gather the next evening in front of Fr. Muller’s, to remove the concrete stumps planted as median marking all along the road, for 2 good reasons -
  1. many motorists, specially 2 wheelers had banged against these and met with accidents, suffering injuries – as these were hardly visible in the dark, because they were neither painted nor any board was put-up warning the motorists of their existence; and –
  2. They were redundant anyway, as the road plan would be redrawn.
The gathering also decided to hold a ‘Press Conference’ to make their view public, and also to invite the general public to join the novel attempt to save trees, namely, ‘Vraksha Bandhan’ (bonding with trees).

On Sept. 2, 2009 - As decided the previous day, people gathered at 6 in the evening in front of Fr. Muller’s, and marched towards Nandigudda knocking off all the concrete median stumps planted in the middle of the Road.  The anger of the people was quite evident in the vehemence with which the stumps were knocked off – using crowbars, stones, pickaxes and even mere hands and legs.  The police who were alerted by the authorities, walked along watching helplessly.  In half an hour all the stumps were gone and those who participated in this protest went home with the satisfaction of having won a round in the fight.  They also resolved to make ‘Vraksha Bandhan’ (our unique symbolic gesture of bonding with trees), a success.

On Sept. 3, 2009 - At 10.30 a.m., the leaders of the movement led by Ms Vidya Dinker, Mr Eric Ozario and Mr Manoj Saldanha, addressed a ‘Press Conference’ at the Press Club, Mangalore.

The press and the electronic media, which was present in large numbers, was briefed about the cause and the course of the struggle and specially about ‘Vraksha Bandhan’ that would be held on Sept.5.

The press and the media, after clarifying a few issues, voiced their support, and as a result, maximum publicity was given to the struggle ‘to save the last boulevard of Mangalore’.

On Sept.4 & 5, 2009 -  4 teams of students and activists, numbering around 20, went round in a door-to-door campaign, distributing hand bills which explained -  1) why trees must be saved; 2) why the price we are paying is disproportionate  to the gains of progress; 3) how the builders’ lobby is utilizing govt. resources (money, political power) to serve their ends with scant regard for laws, norms and people’s needs; 4) instances of the promises that the authorities have made of planting 4 trees (at times even 10) for every tree felled, which were never honoured.

The handbill also called on people to join ‘Vraksha Bandhan’ – to express their love for trees and also to warn the power-drunk authorities to stay away from them.

On Sept. 5, 2009: Vraksha Bandan


‘Vraksha Bandhan’ seems to have caught the imagination of the people.  They gathered in large numbers in front of Fr. Muller’s gate – the appointed place, at the appointed time, 6 p.m.

Eric Ozario explained the innovative concept, the objectives and the procedure.

First – A small banner, with ‘Save Me’ painted on it would be tied, at a height, to the tree. This would symbolize the ‘plea’ of the mute, voiceless, helpless tree – to the people to save it.
 As step 2 – colourful ribbons would be tied around the tree in a gesture symbolising that we value the tree and therefore decorate it with a protective band.
People would then embrace that tree and spend a personal moment with the tree, promising and reassuring the tree – ‘I am there for you.  I shall fight and shout for you and see that they don’t kill you’. 

‘Vraksha Bandhan’ was indeed an emotional experience.  People bonded with every tree on the last boulevard of Mangalore. 

Let us pause for a moment to reflect.  Just because a tree does not react, struggle, fight-back or scream – as all other beings do – man dares to cut trees without any qualms or guilt.  Imagine, if only the tree could cry-out in pain!  For the sake of imagination take the scream of a pig while being slaughtered, multiply that by at least a 1000 times and then imagine the volume of the sound the tree would produce!  Would man have dared to cut even a branch, leave alone a tree?  Thank God they cannot strangle a tree or hang it, to kill it.   Yes, the authorities have taken recourse to the heinous method of poisoning trees, in the dead of the night, in order to avoid resistance while cutting them - elsewhere in Mangalore.

Just a thought….. May be ‘Vraksha Bandhan’ should be conducted every year….. Maybe people around the world should bond with the trees around them by doing ‘Vraksha Bandhan’……just a thought.

The Authorities hit back:

The growing momentum of the ‘Save the Last Boulevard of Mangalore’ agitation seemed to have rattled the authorities who until then had never encountered such consistent resistance.  The Mangalore public has long been considered ‘passive’ and ‘harmless’ by them and therefore the authorities always had their way, going about ‘developing’ Mangalore at the behest of the builders’ lobby, with scant regard for people’s opinion or involvement, many a times bulldozing rules, norms and regulations and in the bargain, causing long term damage for the short term gains of a handful.

The mayor went on the offensive.  He convened a Press Conference and declared that there were no plans to broaden the existing road and hence there was no danger to the trees.  He said that a few ‘anti-progressive’, ‘anti-development’ and ‘anti-social’ elements were trying to whip-up opposition to the grand plans for progress of the city that the authorities were trying to implement, speedily.  He threatened to arrest and imprison the leaders of this movement.

At the same time, a band of young men, appointed for the purpose, went round the vicinity distributing handbills calling for people to support the authorities and defeat those who were trying to protect trees.  They argued that trees were a small price to pay for the benefits that will accrue out of the plans that the authorities had for development.  The handbills went to the ridiculous extent of saying that the trees were a hazard to human lives as they could fall at any time and kill them and therefore pleaded to ‘save humans from the trees’!

And then a procession was staged, apparently by the mayor’s party, in which people from outside the area were mobilized in a show of strength.  Loud speakers blaring, drums beating, people walking and also in cars, proceeded from Fr. Muller’s gate towards the Nandigudda Circle where the mayor waited to receive their memorandum.  The memorandum pleaded with the authorities not be cowed down by the ‘regressive trouble makers’ and assured the authorities that they have their permission to cut all trees for the sake of road broadening and concretization.  The Mayor thanked them for their support, pledged to continue the good work of development come what may, and also promised action against the ‘trouble makers’.
  
The Legal Battle:

Realising that time was running out for the hapless trees, as the authorities were on the offensive and hell-bent, that honouring the promise made to the trees at the ‘Vraksha Bandhan’, Shri Eric Ozario, Ms Vidya Dinker and Shri Manoj Saldanha, through an efficient, young advocate Smt. Suma R. Nayak (herself an animal rights activist), filed a suit in the court of the Civil Judge (Jr. Dn), Mangalore, D.K. – seeking ‘a permanent prohibitory injunction’ restraing the defendants No.1 and 2, their agents, servants, officers or any person claiming through them, from felling/cutting/trimming any of the 45 trees standing along the side of the road, without following the due process/procedure of law, provided under ‘Karnataka Preservation Trees Act’.  The defendants in the suit were –

  1. The commissioner, Mangalore city
  2. The Executive Engineer, Corporation,
  3. The tree officer, Karnataka Forest Dept.,
  4. The state Govt. of Karnataka.

On 08-09-2009, the honourable court was kind enough to register the suit, issue notices to the defendants and also order the defendants to maintain status quo until further orders.

The court order came as great relief to the movement and a well-deserved reprieve to the innocent trees.  The court proceedings are still on and the restraining order still in place.

‘Friends of the Earth’, the organization spearheading this movement to ‘Save The Last Boulevard of Mangalore’, is ever indebted to Smt. Suma R. Nayak – for filing the suit, for fighting it so efficiently and above all, not charging a paisa for her professional services.  An ardent environmentalist, advocate Shri Guruprasad, will take-up the legal battle on our behalf, from here onwards.

On Sept.9, 2009: A public meeting was organized at the Roshini Nilaya auditorium, at 6 in the evening.  From the jam-packed gathering it was evident that public interest and support was growing by the day, for the cause.

The meeting was called, for 2 good reasons –
  1. to inform the general public about the temporary legal victory (which was received with great joy and abandon), and
  2. To present the re-drawn plan and options, the result of the lengthy discussions our representative, Architect Shri Venkatesh Pai had with the MCC Dev. Consultant.
What transpired at the public meeting and the decisions arrived at, are all contained in a letter dated 10-09-2009 addressed to the deputy commissioner by the residents of Kankanady, Valencia and Jeppu – which was sent under direction from the gathering

At our meeting of the evening of 09-09-2009, Mr Venkatesh Pai presented his report consequent to his detailed discussions and consideration of options with the City Corporation’s consultants.  We deliberated and arrived at the decision that we have no objections if the MCC is working on making of a 2 lane road for the present.  We however expect the authorities to involve us, the citizens, in the entire scope of the project, and come back to us before embarking on even the planning of the proposed 4 and 6 laning of the same road as mentioned to us by Mr Dharmaraj. 


We wish to formally bring to your notice the following issues discussed and the decisions taken at the meeting of 09-09-09:
  1. After discussions with Mr Dharmaraj, Mr V Pai has presented the various options to us (4 in no.) which we have discussed at length after which we have arrived at the following conclusions-
  2. We have all agreed to the 2-lane concretization plan – on the existing bitumen road, so that it does not affect any of the trees by the side.
  3. We would like the MCC or its consultant body for infrastructure works to undertake marking of the centre line of the proposed 2-lane road on site, so the marking and its implication for the trees can be explained to us so we can assure ourselves that no trees are to be cut.  We request the fixing of a joint meeting at the site where our committee will be present to check the marking.
  4. We would like the time schedule to be worked out for this project, announced/shared with the citizens of Mangalore.  This schedule should be strictly adhered to.  This will minimize the extreme hardship being faced by citizens wherever road projects are in progress in Mangalore today.
  5. Citizen’s safety and convenience should be given top priority.  It has been observed that MCC’s contractors do not observe the necessary and mandatory standard safety procedures required for such projects.  MCC engineers unfortunately are indifferent and blind to these deliberate and serious lapses in common safety measures.  This is the cause of the numerous mishaps and accidents involving pedestrians and motorists that have happened on every road project in Mangalore.  We have brought this up with you during your site inspection of 30-09-09 since we do not want the same to repeat in this project or in other future projects.
  6. In view of the above mentioned issues, we request that a signboard be put up at the site in a prominent and visible location displaying vital information about the project as mentioned below.  This is a standard practice in all projects and may be followed here too.
  •  §  The name of the project.
  • §  The name, address and contact numbers of the contractor of the project.
  • §  The name and contact numbers of the supervising engineer of the MCC. 
  • §  The start date and completion date of the project. 
  • §  Estimated cost of the project. 

This will help both the MCC and the public, ensure awareness and accountability, encourage quality and will be beneficial to the project.  (After we brought this up with MCC consultants, we are happy to note that a couple of boards and safety tapes have now come up on the Valencia road site but we expect the boards to carry all the above details, not just the name of the contractor firm.)
  1. We have now been told that phase 2, i.e. widening of the 2 lane to make the 4 lane road will take place within the next 3-5 years and phase 3, i.e. widening of the 4 lane to make the 6 lane road will take place in about 20 years.  We demand that meetings be called at location at the time of planning and executing these proposed phase of works and issues be put before the stakeholders/citizens residing in the area for discussion and feedback.
  2. Mr Dharmaraj informed us that the roads under construction today are said to be as per the road hierarchy plan of the Mangalore Urban Development Authority (MUDA).  This is an important document about which most citizens of Mangalore are unaware, since it has not been presented to them by the planning authority.  We suggest that this plan be made available to the public at the very least through the MCC/MUDA/DC DK websites in the interest of transparency and to aid public response to such plans of great import to Mangaloreans.
Immediately thereafter, the leaders of ‘Friends of the Earth’ organized 2 meetings of the land owners owning properties on both sides of the boulevard and placed before them the 3 phase road widening plan of the Corporation.  All of them were gratified to note that in the First Phase (2 lane); only 2 or 3 trees need to go.  But they were alarmed to realize that if the 2nd phase of 4 laning is implemented as per the plan, all the trees would be removed and if the 3rd phase of 6 laning was executed, then 10 to 15 feet of private property, specially of Catholic institutions along the boulevard, such as - Roshini Nilaya,  Retreat House, Gerosa School, Seminary, St. Joseph’s workshop, Infant Mary’s School, St. Anthony’s Ashram etc., would be encroached upon and that 2 schools, Gerosa and Infant Mary’s, would be demolished .  Many saw saffron in these plans.


Everyone pledged their support in the fight to save the trees and also promised to do everything possible to protect their interests.

In the meantime, the work of the First Phase (2 lane concretization) began.

And even when the restraining order of the court was in effect, on 12-12-2009, on a Saturday afternoon, people got a clue that preparations were afoot to cut the trees.  The presence of Police in large numbers confirmed their worst fears.

What is to be noted here is that most illegal activities are undertaken on late Saturday afternoons, so that, by the time the aggrieved approach the court of law, earliest by 11a.m on Monday, the damage is done.

‘The Friends of the Earth’ immediately got into action.  They filed a complaint at the Pandeshwar Police Station, attaching a copy of the court order, and also went and met the Superintend of Police.  By evening, the police force was withdrawn and nobody ventured to cut the trees that day.

Later on it was learnt that the Corporation had sought the permission of the Tree Officer to cut 5 trees, which was granted.  However, as they had not got the permission of the court, in the face of timely resistance, they had to refrain.

On 15-12-2009, Eric Ozario, Vidya Dinker and Manoj Saldanha, once again filed an application in the court, requesting it to stay the permission granted by the Tree Officer without giving the appellants an opportunity to be heard.  The court however rejected this appeal and permitted the cutting of 5 trees.  The Corporation, subsequently, cut 6 trees – one more than permitted (the 6th totally unnecessary) and also chopped off many braches of many other trees, without permission.  The court has been informed of this high-handedness.


Now the 2 lane concretizing work is complete.   There are no signs that pavements will ever be done. Nor the drains. Nor the difference in levels between the approach roads and the concrete road be ever addressed.  At the very beginning of the first monsoons, the shoddy, shabby, hurriedly-done- concretization is manifesting itself in pits and cracks.  The citizens remain as harassed, except where concretization is proper, motorists experience a smooth drive.  The greatest, consolation is that, thanks to people’s resistance, most of the trees are still standing.
  
The fight is not over yet.  It is feared that as soon as the court lifts the restraining order, the authorities will go about the business of massacring trees.  We wonder what we would need to do then, to save these trees.   We will not give-up this fight.  However, we rely on your support to win it.

The story of the trees along the Last Boulevard of Mangalore is no different from that of any tree, anywhere in the world.  More and more trees are sacrificed at the altar of ‘progress’. The life-giving tree is in danger!  Our lives are in danger!   Let us save ourselves before it’s too late!

As narrated to me by Mr Eric Ozario and Ms Vidya Dinker, the leaders of this movement. You can support this cause by signing a petition ment to save the trees.To sign the petition click here