How green was the Capital

SAVING DELHI'S GREEN AREAS: A CITIZENS' ACTION GUIDE by Gitanjali Singhal Publisher: Kalpavriksh Price: Rs 30

By Vishesh Prakash
Published: Saturday 31 December 1994

COMMITMENT to the environment is visible in every page of this small book. Gitanjali Singhal doesn't merely take note of the fact that Delhi's green areas are in for trouble from human acts of folly, but also suggests a line of action. This book aims at empowering Delhi's citizens with the information they need to protect the city's embattled greens.

The author goes into various causes that hurt "the greens" of Delhi. Her ideas range from the political to the social to the economic to the apathetic bureaucratic. She describes how the increasing number of vehicles in South Delhi has led to a rash of flyovers and constant widening of roads. Burgeoning shopping complexes -- almost every locality in Delhi has one -- have led to the "greens being gobbled up". Whenever an agency like Kalpavriksh attempts to "control" this lunatic growth, its volunteers are branded "anti-development".

Another of this book's concerns is corrupt bureaucracy. There is a segment of people who can actually get away with doing anything and those who can get "any project" approved by "warming" the pockets of the government officials.

There are examples galore involving the Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking's transmission towers in the city's "lungs", the Ridge; of trees being felled thoughtlessly at the flyover near the Indian Institute of Technology; of the indiscriminate tilling of footpaths and road dividers; of eucalyptus trees being sawed all over Delhi; of the roads being widened at Lajpat Nagar; of tree-felling in West End, and so on. Kalpavriksh's experience in dealing with these situations gives an insight into how the system works.

The author gives details of authorities whose can help block this metropolicide -- including apparently innocuous telephone numbers of key officials. And she describes ways to approach the city's roughnecked police to maximum gain.

All this, however, renders the book simplistic. There just isn't enough of questioning the attitudes and outlook of the social structure. What emerges is a hackneyed emphasis on the vigilante role of the individual as against the apathy of tottering institutions.

Land and property speculators, contractors, commercial advertising interests, users of cars and other private vehicles, and the general urban public constitute the entire upper stratum whose interest lies in choking and destroying the city's environmental system. How this very same group can be activated by well-meaning individuals is anybody's guess.

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