It was on a chilly evening of a December day last year that Chandigarhians — young and old — all got together and thronged the venue where public hearing was held only to oppose the first flyover for their city. They travelled from different places, sat and waited for hours till evening for their turn only to tell that a flyover will spoil the character of the city.
Even as the majority of them at the public hearing junked the flyover, they were shocked on Wednesday when they got to know that the UT Administration has decided to go ahead with sector 29/31 flyover project as a majority have supported it. They will be submitting the decision before Punjab and Haryana High Court next month.
Dejected residents feel cheated. They say that public hearing was a mere formality as the decision had already been taken.
Activist Paveela Bali said that the administration must publicly display names of people who supported the flyover. She said that during public hearing held last year, there were only three of them who had supported and over 87 had opposed it.
“I or anyone is definitely not against positive developments or progress, but we have already seen and realised we cannot progress while destroying the environment. As for the Tribune flyover, it’s totally shortsighted and myopic planning. How can you even think of just saying only 700 trees? Many suggestions and plans were presented before the administration during the public hearing in December last year as to how traffic can be eased to a great extent but they turned a deaf ear.”
She added, “We have seen how flyovers are not helping to reduce traffic. And I say if the flyover was coming up without cutting those heritage trees, I don’t think anyone would protest so much. MP Kirron Kher said last year ‘1 ke badle 5 ped lagenge’. If they were so concerned, we would have seen some sort of planning in that direction but nothing has happened so far.”
After the administration saw the response of people at public hearing, they had even referred the same to General House of Municipal Corporation which has a majority of BJP councillors.
Architect Tarun Mathur who had also presented alternative proposal instead of flyover was upset with the UT’s decision.
“In the first place, the Chandigarh Administration has not once explained why urban design values are being violated. Is it too much to expect the administrative brass to uphold finer values and creativity?Moreover, the Department of Architecture, Chandigarh, is silent on the issue. They apparently have been bulldozed by the Administration.”
Mathur added that a dissent note has been ignored. “The Heritage Sub-Committee had written a dissent note on the flyover proposal, yet the Administration is pushing ahead with it. Cities like Islamabad and Teheran also have a majestic backdrop of mountains. These cities have very sensitively provided underpasses instead of flyovers, and have not obstructed the mountain backdrop.
Flyover configurations are old and obsolete and have been replaced by more contemporary interchanges. Why not have modern interchange instead of a monstrous Zirakpur type flyover?” Mathur added.
Pearl Ahluwalia, architect who along with team, had given a proposal where only 65 trees had to be cut. She too is disappointed.
“As passionate urban planners and residents of the city beautiful, we wanted to resolve the Tribune roundabout complexity and therefore patented and proposed a prototypical alternative solution called the *’Overloop’* . We presented overloop in the undemocratic public hearing held by the UT administration. Our research was acknowledged as unparalleled for we proposed a 50-ear comprehensive mobility plan for the city,” Ahluwalia said.
It was said that Overloop was one of the seven shortlisted designs and they were invited by the finance secretary for further dialogue.
“It was deeply disappointing to see that these subsequent juries/discussions with the administration were a hogwash in response to the court order as the outcome was already premeditated. The authority in question colluded to meet their vested interests. The review committee apparently comprising experts didn’t have any renowned independent urban planner or traffic management expert.
There were no parameters to evaluate the feasibility and funnctionality of the proposed solutions. The administration’s thoughtless stance and bias perspective towards building a flyover will only choke the city. Therefore, a fruitless exercise as it had no bearing on the matter at hand,” Ahluwalia added.
Dr Ashwin Mohan, senior consultant psychiatrist, said, “It seems that the UT Administration has finally decided to go ahead with the flyover above Tribune chowk. This is despite stiff opposition from various individuals, NGOs, activists, environmentalists and public-spirited individuals regarding the irreversible changes caused to the environment. There is a continuous and gradual deterioration of the environment, and axing of trees, further concretisation, accentuating congestion at the bottlenecks, and poor aesthetics will only make it worse.”
He added, “Smart does not mean more flyovers and buildings. It means a more sustainable management of traffic issues. No one is denying the existence of the problem. However, worldwide it has been shown that this is not the solution. Technical aspects apart, culture, heritage, aesthetics, all need to be taken into consideration. We hope that the administration will reconsider this and focus on other methods, including behaviour change, awareness, public transport, and many other ways that experts can suggest.”
Advocate Arjun Atmaram said that public hearing seemed to be a mere formality. “It appears that like always, a hearing is always an empty formality. If a matter is pre-decided why have a hearing? A decision must always be objective and consider the opinions both for and against. If the administration is going ahead and going to axe 700+ trees, how are they proposing to offset the damage? They will plant saplings that are a foot high that will take 20 years to reach the size of the trees proposed to cut,” he said.
Dr Anu Dua Sehgal said, “How can a flyover be the solution to traffic and congestion, especially when it will lead to further increase in pollution and commutation problems in the entire Tricity. The Chandigarh Administration should look at other cities before implementing this project — have they been able to tackle the problem of traffic congestion with a flyover? None so far! Rather we are opting to cut 700 trees to go ahead with a project which has no viable plus points! This is a totally shortsighted move because in the long run, we all would be stuck at same traffic jams on same roads — minus 700 trees.”
Another lawyer, Kavita Markanda, said, “It is a complete U-turn by the administration.”
“It is a very surprising U- turn by the Chandigarh Administration. Residents first need to know where the administration has planted saplings (10 saplings were to be planted against one tree murdered) for the trees removed for making the underpass in the Rose Garden . The basic Le Corbusier plans are being compromised,” Markanda said.
WHAT HAPPENED IN DECEMBER LAST YEAR IN PUBLIC HEARING
Young, old and middle-aged had flooded the guest house to oppose the flyover during the hearing. Never before had the UT guest house (where hearing was held) seen such impassioned citizen activists, who came armed with drawings, presentations, articles, cuttings and children. Over 80 people had made presentations.
Most of them had said that flyover was absolutely not required. Some had even turned it a money- making gimmick.
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