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Lessons learnt - but the hard way!

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Agara lake & S T bed trees 012.jpgI moved into an apartment complex in S T Bed layout, Koramangala, about 4 years back. The layout was developed by BDA over a decade back on Sinivagilu tank bed, quite as per the widely prevalent practice then. For a layout on a tank bed, the drainage work done by BDA was totally inadequate, and as a result, the asphalting on the roads progressively deteriorated, making the drive through the layout worse than a ride on a camel back.

After moving in, I teamed up with the local RWA lot in trying to move the municipal authorities to undertake the repairs. Work progressed extremely slowly till the time of the recent Assembly elections, where Sri Ramalinga Reddy was elected on the Congress ticket. He is a 4th-time MLA (and, was a minister too, I believe), used to represent Jayanagar constituency earlier, and came with an impressive track record of having done a lot of developmental work there. During his pre-election campaigns, he had repeatedly visited the layout and promised to have the roads brought to excellent condition within 6 months of getting elected. True to his word, immediately after getting elected, he took total charge and the works began moving real fast. But, that's when a new problem cropped up!

Some wise person came up with the theory that with the water table in the layout being very high, asphalting will never last, and the right choice would be concrete. Even worse was the decision forced by certain vocal sections of the RWA to concrete the entire width of the road, from drain-edge to drain-edge, without a care in the world for trees/ plants, or pedestrians. Many of the residents had added even upto 5 floors, all for renting out, and needed the space for parking the additional cars that had come along.

As the work progressed and the damage became too stark, a few humane souls approached me, and I then statred this Yahoogroup campaign, which hopefully should contain the damage to some extent atleast. To his credit, it must be said that Mr Ramalinga Reddy was the first to respond, and order the damage control exercises. He has ordered that all trees/ plants be protected, pits be provided for planting saplings where there are large gaps between existing trees/ plants, and that 5 ft wide concrete-free footpaths be provided on atleast one side of the roads, where the concreting work is yet to be taken up.

Perhaps these could be lessons for other layouts similarly placed.

I must place on record the support from fellow members of the savekoramangala Yahoogroup, leading pleasantly to some of the members openly changing their earlier positions and veering round to support the cause.

Muralidhar Rao

The campaign started with the following mail addressed by me:

Dear ST Bed layout friends

The drain-edge to drain-edge concreting is choking up all the trees, plants and therewith all other forms of life, converting our layout into a veritable concrete jungle (check ). Can we have atleast the roads where the work is yet to be taken up, provided with 5ft wide 'concrete-free', tree-lined foot-paths, please?

Even with 4+4 ft taken up by the drains, and 5+5 ft taken up by the foot-paths, we will still be left with a 18ft carriage-way on a 40 ft wide road, and 12 ft carriage-way on a 30 ft wide road. And, only the carriage-way needs to be concreted. If it's felt that 12 ft wide carriage-way is not good enough, the 5 ft wide foot-path may be limited to just one side (the side without the BESCOM poles). Whatever, trees, and the birds, squirrels and other being that come along with it, are a must for every road.

And, where the damage has already been done, we need to undo it by removing the concrete upto a foot from around the tree/ plant trunk/ stem, and to sufficient depth in order to allow water to reach the roots. And, where trees/ plants are missing, fresh pits need to be dug, and saplings planted.

I trust everyone will support this.

GR responded:
I completely agree with this. Another alternative might be to build a low protective wall one foot away from each tree, like some concientious citizens have already done along their property walls. Trees have also been indiscriminately hacked, especially on 5th Main (the temple road) and on 8th Cross (Bethany road), because they were coming in the way of the earth moving machines. Some co ordination between the contractor and the horticulture/ forest depts would obviously be the answer. Is this too much to hope for?

By narrowing the carriage way maybe the speed bumps that are appearing on 1st main can be avoided too?
NSS added:
Planning is non existant. If the drains are covered with proper granite of pre cast slabs, no seperate foot path is requird.

If a 4 feet wide levelled space is left including the trees, the same can be a cycling path. It is not the cost that matters but the attitude.

of course, partly the blame is ours. We had several rounds of all types of authorities regarding ST bed roads but never bothered to find out what they are planning or suggest any ideas for their adoption before the tenders were called.

let us try to save whatever trees are left out (most of the sapling were planted during the last three years and some were coming up nicely). Contract to plant tress, contracts to cut trees. no mre contracts for planting tress as there is  no space left out!

I responded:
Dear Mr NSS - I have a slightly different take on this.

Going by current practices across the city, covering of road-side drains only facilitates car parking on/ across the foot-paths. Besides, when left open, mis-uses like dumping of garbage into the drains, etc, can be readily seen and curbed, which will not be the case if the drains are covered.

Also, particularly in residential areas, it is time pedestrians are given their due place, in priority over motorised vehicles, and thereby the need for a minimum 5ft wide foot-path, rather than the suggested 1 ft wide walk-ways over covered drains, where besides you will be scraping your shoulders against compound walls. The only hindrance, rather a welcome one at that, on the foot-paths can be the trees.

If residents have not provided sufficient vehicle parking space within their compounds, it is better they park on the edge of the carriage-way, rather than on/ across foot-paths. If the carriage-way gets choked in the process, so be it. Anyway, particularly in residential areas, there's no need for motorised vehicles to travel beyond 25 Kmph speed (perhaps, sign-boards indicating this limit need to be installed across the layout). Let this also become a disincentive for excessive usage/ dependence on personalised forms of transport, and an incentive towards shifting to public transport (The BMTC is trying to get its act together with the help of IIM,B - check
Hoho off to slow start and Better bussing for Greener Bangalore).

And, hopefully, as the trend world-over (check mail showing unsold cars piled up acroos the world, forwarded separately), the people of S T Bed layout can also revert to becoming one/ no-car families.

Further, while cycling tracks would certainly be advisable along trunk routes/ highways, in residential layouts, it is better if the motorised vehicle users learned to accommodate the cyclists on the carriage-ways themselves. No separate cycle tracks need be provided.

AK added:
Raise the height of the drains and the footpath - so that cars cannot be parked. The kerb stones should take care of this!

MP added:
Brilliant idea! why did no one think of this before. Perhaps it can be done on roads that are still awaiting work to be done.

I responded:
Let me reiterate. These are residential areas and not highways. And here, it is time the pedestrian is given his due, which is a minimum 5 ft wide concrete-free path, nothing less. He cannot be treated like a third-class citizen and asked to do a balancing act on a 1 ft wide stone slab, wedged between the compound wall on the one side and all kinds of obstructions on the other.

Also, we are aware how badly these jobs are generally done. And, one badly placed slab will land you in the drain perhaps with a few broken bones. No - that's just not acceptable as a pedestrian way. Please don't even talk about it.

Raising the height of the slabs may solve the problem of parking on the footpath for one day. The very next day, the car owner will engage a mason and have it levelled.

People who want to continue to enjoy the privilege of moving around in cars, have to learn to make some sacrifices in the interest of the pedestrians, cyclists, etc. We do not want to nurture the likes of Kartik Somaiah (the one who mowed down 4 pedestrians in Indiranagar) here.

PK added:
Footpaths are meant to be used not just by pedestrians but should cater to the needs of the disabled as well. Using covered areas over drains for this purpose may not be the answer. I would rather that our priority should first be aimed at saving all the existing trees, providing at least 5 ft wide pedestrian way which should be disabled friendly, and that car parking should have the least consideration, particularly in a residential area. If the carriageway gets decreased, so be it. People will drive more carefully. Why do we not stop compromising? Would it not be better that at least from now onwards let us follow standards that govern provision of infrastructure for all civilised modern societies? So much money is being spent on doing ST Bed roads, can we not set standards on the ones that have not been taken up as yet?

Our priority could now be to save all the existing trees and make adjustments favouring trees and pedestrians. All other considerations come next.

AG came in with:
It has taken them 3 years to do this much of road work in ST Bed - now that only 5-10% work is left, please do not throw any new issue. For once, let us have decent motorable roads. Focus your energies elsewhere for the moment please (and blame me for being selfish here).

I responded:
That was indeed why I had also remained silent all this while. But, the damage to the greenery is far too extensive for me remain that way any longer, whether that view is acceptable to others or not.

Personally, I was against concreting itself. When the planning itself is so unprofessional, I don't know how the various utility agencies involved are going to be managing their services effectively. Perhaps, we will soon know.

And, to top it all, this end to end concreting, with the trees/ plants totally choked, is just too unbearable a sight.

There need not be any delay or hold up on account of the changes. But, proper foot-paths and living greenery are a must.

MA added:
Dear Mr AG - Please note that the very folks you are asking to focus attention elsewhere - have worked tirelessly to get the roads in S T Bed done, while all you others out there were only cribbing about it.

Be mindful that there are other stakeholders in who use the road.

AG responded:
Hi MA - I do not deny repeated follow ups and strong presentations, but I strongly suspect our folks were involved in getting the ST bed roads done. If that was true, these ideas of footpath, openings for Tree etc would have been in the plan from the very beginning. But let this matter die here. No one's effort goes unrecognized.

You might have noticed several large empty land parcels in ST Bed, specially adjacent to Nirgun Mandir. Can we plan to plant several trees on these lands, perhaps with support from Forest dept and land owners?

RS came in with:
This is getting nowhere... an error has happened it needs rectification. If you know the ways of the government you will realize this..  why are accusations and words like suspect etc get used...
the fact is the dynamics of road sides trees and  road spaces is not being understood,
1) It provides for percolation
2) Provides stability to the shoulder area of the road
3) provides shade [ when you turn old and infirm and are forced to walk rather than afford the luxury of a car  in the noon you will know why]
4) promotes bird life
5) Trees Form a barrier for road dust which is going to be rampant from a concrete road as unlike asphalt it does not bind particulate when it heats up , friction on concrete roads actually give rise to more dust that asphalt roads.
6) Concrete roads are reflective compared to asphalt and presence of trees will add to the absorption of a lot of reflected heat and light or prevent direct sunlight the first place.
large empty tracts of land belong to someone one cannot just go about planting trees arbitrarily just because one sees empty land no land owner who has at today real estate prices bought land will give it away for trees to be planted.
I further added:
Very correctly stated, RS.

What we are talking about is avenue trees for providing shade for the pedestrian, as well as a relief from the glare radiated by concrete (now in addition from the road surface). As also the living beings that come along with them - birds, squirrels, etc.

Yes, the automobile lobby in ST Bed layout stifled my voice when I raised these points earlier. But, seeing the extensive damage caused, I am not going to remain silent any longer, and am going to do everything possible to contain it to the extent possible, lobby or no lobby. And, there need not be any hold up on that account.

Mr Ramalinga Reddy has appreciated the point of view, and appears to have already given suitable instructions to the engineers.

Mr AK came back with:
I give up. Divide and rule? 10 people and 11 opinions? There is simply no point in this endless debate, especially if simple things cannot be understood and if someone wants to use a tone and manner that is most supercilious. I do not need to be told in this forum - nor do any of us here - that these are residential roads within a 'colony' and not highways. Nobody has asked or demanded that pedestrians not be given their due. The issue is that there have been deeds already committed and that perhaps there is no going back on those. The issue is also how these can be rectified for the roads that are yet to be laid. having said that please design, re design, do, re-do whatever you feel is best.

Like someone very senior here in this group whom I respect, also said - albeit in a different context - I will focus my energies elsewhere.
I responded:
Dear Mr AK - Where have I asked for footpaths where the job has already been completed? I have been asking for them only where the job is yet to be taken up. And, the changes need not hold up the work, either.

The moot point also is that if I had brought up the issue before the work had started, how many people would have supported me? Would you have? I would like to know. Perhaps it required the pictures of the choked trees to prick the conscience of some people at least, including the MLA.

It is the selfishness of all of us taken too far, as admitted by your esteemed friend himself. And, if I am carrying on this campaign, please rest assured that it is not because of any altruistic motive. It is again out of selfishness, but of a slightly different kind. Vehicles are being added on to the city at the rate of over 1300 a day. They are already choking up our lives, very much as the concrete was of the plants. And, if we allow that to continue, it will not be too far off when we have to give up the city itself.

So, where do you want to focus your energy now, Sir?

AG turns over a new leaf:
Since last evening, men are using rock cutters to create decent sized opening for trees planted along newly concreted roads. They have done many last evening and continue working on 1st Main this morning. If that was not in their original plan, I thank the person who made them do this. More residents should ensure such openings are made for trees around their house, before contractor takes off his team.

VM added:
Yup, the area around the trees are being broken upo and breathing space being provided on 1st main.

Now who is the nobel laureate responsible for this please own up!!! Sheela /manvel/Murli/ major is it one of you. whoever it is..... great work..can we see if all streets are covered by this sensible excecise..before we take up another issue of pavenments/ cycle tracks.

down down lobby...and this form a two car family who has a huge carbon footprint!!

UP added:
Congrats to the person who is responsible for this act of kindness!. Keep up the good work!.


Ravi_D's picture

An intersting link..

First of all, congrats Murali Sir!

If someone needs to repeat this process, take a look at this pic. Can we comeup with something similar for our local neighborhood trees?


murali772's picture

New York's Broadway to be pedestrianaised

New York city plans to close several blocks of Broadway to vehicle traffic through Times Square and Herald Square, an experiment that would turn swaths of the Great White Way into pedestrian malls and continue Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s effort to reduce traffic congestion in Midtown.

For the full story, click on:


Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

Times Square Overhaul

The overhaul of traffic flow around Times Square area was long overdue. Last Christmas season, there had been severe traffic jams & congestion & pedestrians moving towards Port Authority Bus Terminal from various parts around there had to dart between traffic, similar to our own areas around Forum Mall in Koramangala.

Mayor Bloomberg has struck back after the defeat of his congestion pricing initiative for Manhattan, but this is the only way forward.

America is slowly waking up to the reality of the new demands - people cannot be ignored, children cannot continue in terror of cars.

murali772's picture

damage controlled

With many citizens, Mr Ramalinga Reddy (MLA) himself being amongst the first, rallying round to the need to protect the greenery in the layout, the following steps were decided upon:

A) Where the job had already been completed, to scoop out all the concrete from around the base of the trees (by drilling) to a depth whereby water seeps down readily

B) Where the job was still to be taken up
1) avoid concreting around the base of existing trees/ plants,
2) Where there are no plants/ trees presently, provide pits at regular intervals to plant trees afresh
3) Where feasible, provide footpaths, atleast on one side.

The album linked below shows the progress made

24Mar'09 003.jpg24Mar'09 006.jpg

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
idontspam's picture

Trees and methods

Good going Muraliavare, better than before... May be this will be of some help also

blrsri's picture

very good initiative..

Good going Murali Sir...

They have already messed up the wide footpaths in Jayanagar with this concrete mess..dunno when will the authorities learn!

One question that comes up here is how much space do the trees need..and after growing street trees for few years now..I can tell you they atleast need 2X2 ft space!

Wish they could understand!

Heres another small and nice website talking of how wide the tree space needs to be..

murali772's picture

a new dimension

The 4th main residents added a fresh dimension to the more humane approach as described in the following posting in the yahoogroup made by Ms Jayanthi Rajgopal, from Mantri Classic, who to begin with was largely responsible for triggering this revised approach:
Wanted to share with you a lovely gesture from the residents of 4th main, ST Bed layout. While i was down there on Sunday, watching the concrete being poured and to ensure that provisions were being made for new trees to be planted, a few women residents of that road came out of a house, carrying a tray with cups of tea and biscuits, which they distributed to all the labourers working there, the engineers, the supervisors and everyone who was around there, including me. While thanking them for such a thoughtful gesture, i was told that all residents on that road had voluntarily contributed Rs100 each and this group of women decided to provide the laborers and engineers with lunches on 2 days, consisting of bisibele bath on one day and pulao on the next and cups of tea and water too! The residents apparently have been suffering for many years due to flooding of their road and were so delighted that the road is finally getting done, that they wanted to give something back to the guys who are making it possible!!
At a time when all of us are so self involved and busy doing our own, this kind and considerate gesture made me realise that if we all do our small little bit, we can spread a lot of goodwill and cheer around us.... And while we all crticise and complain when things do not get done, somehow many of us forget to appreciate when they finally do!!

This has set a new trend, and others are now coming forward to follow it.

Muralidhar Rao

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