Written by Aggam Walia
The proposed flyover, that will connect Zirakpur to Tribune Chowk, is receiving heavy criticism from various environmentalists and architects who oppose the felling of over 700 trees for the project. Besides the environmental damage, they also question the purpose of the flyover, with many calling it ‘redundant’.
“Cutting so many trees for the flyover is crazy. Surely, there are other ways to manage traffic. One possibility is to not have that flyover because flyovers are generally unfriendly towards pedestrians. In Europe, they are demolishing flyovers because of the destruction it causes to city life”, says Madhu Sarin, a Chandigarh-based environmentalist. Her views are echoed by Saumya Sharma, a conservation architect. “No resident of Chandigarh will support this. We are proud of the green belt we have. We should read the report again. Maybe the flyover is not necessary. It is certainly not worth cutting so many trees”, says Sharma.
The imminent felling of trees is encouraging experts to speak out against the flyover, not only on an environmental basis, but also on the basis of urban planning. “Personally, as a resident of Chandigarh, an architect and a town-planner, I am against the flyover. It will ruin the city. The government must explore other options. In transport management, a flyover is always the last option. Besides, when we move traffic from Tribune Chowk to another junction, will that junction be capable of handling that much traffic? Concerns like these need to be addressed”, says Sarang Goel. He reminds us that Le Corbusier planned for this and if his proposals were taken seriously, this problem wouldn’t have surfaced. “Scale of flyovers and underpasses proposed by Corbusier’s team was much smaller than what the administration wants to build today. Besides, they would have been in tandem with the city’s growth, had they been considered over time, instead of the currently ill-planned surgical strike on Tribune roundabout.”
Some have gone further and called it a “political agenda”. “First of all, they need an environmental clearance, no project can go ahead without that. Also, we should question the relevance and validity of the flyover. It doesn’t make sense. It is a part of a political agenda, like the Metro, which has been studied and considered not feasible for Chandigarh”, says Jaspreet Takhar, an architect.
Jaginder Singh, president of Pind Bachao Punjab Committee, says, “From an environmental perspective, the flyover will generate a crisis. Economically speaking, the capital being used for that project is immense and will be better used elsewhere”. Singh also talks about the underpass connecting Sectors 16 and 17 and says that there wasn’t “a lot of influx there” and even questions why it was built. He uses the same logic to illustrate his stance on the flyover project.
Rajnish Wattas, president of Chandigarh Tree Lovers and former principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture, says, “First of all, the authorities must tell us the details. We need an official statement regarding this”. He also shares that the area, where the trees are to be cut, has a lot of arjun trees and is one of the few places in the city with such trees. The trees, he says, are fully grown and old.
However, Vikram Hans, former director of PEC, feels that in the long term, the flyover is the correct thing to do. “Ecology and engineering will sometimes have these conflicts. In case of the flyover, we will be reducing traffic and particulate pollution in that area. We can plant the trees elsewhere”, he says.