Friday, May 30, 2008

Whom are the roads for?

Dear friends,
Attached are a couple of vivid pictures of how available roadspace gets used -- by pedestrians, public and private vehicles.
Those who use public transport such as buses, suburban railways and occasionally, rickshaws and taxis are also pedestrians, because everyday, they walk to the bus-stop, the railway station etc. But those of us who own our own car walk the least... and we take up maximum space.
LET US ASK: Whose space do we take up? Do we own this space?
LET US THINK: Our cars continue to take up space on roads and in building compounds even when they are parked, empty and unoccupied... which is for about 21 hours out of 24.
LET US INTROSPECT: Do we really need to own cars? Do we need this kind of outward show of prosperity, which impoverishes society and robs the common man of his public spaces?
We say hawkers, squatters and encroachers steal public spaces... and they do. But don't we? For most of these people, encroaching on public spaces is a matter of livelihood and survival.
But for people like us who own cars, taking up scarce public land is a matter of privilege. We consider the luxury of constantly taking up a 8x10 ft. space a birthright.
LET US BE HONEST: A majority of us don't own a garage or our own exclusive compound. For parking, we take up scarce space in our building compound, which is actually the commonwealth of all our neighbours, young and old. Compound space is for children to play in, and for folks of all ages to walk about, meet up and enjoy recreation. Open space is beautiful in itself.
Many of us don't even have parking space in a building compound, and for most of the day, we leave our cars parked on roadsides and pavements, which are the shared wealth of all our fellow-citizens. Our parked cars reduce the effective width of the road, and they often force pedestrians to walk in the middle of the road, rather than on the sides where they are safe.
The right to walk safely and in comfort in our city is a BIRTHRIGHT.
The right to own and drive a car is not a birthright... it is an ACQUIRED RIGHT, a legal right, which is conditional on our not obstructing the birthright of others.
The right to occupy public space with a parked car is not a birthright... it is an undesirable extension of the right to own and drive a car. It is a LEGALIZED, SOCIALLY-ACCEPTED THEFT, a collective aberration that must be stampled out like untouchability and dowry.
LET US SPEAK OUT: I am ashamed of the theft of space that I commit all the time by virtue of being a car-owner. I am ashamed that I deprive citizens -- especially women, children and seniors -- of their rightful spaces on roads and roadsides when I go out, and in my building compound where I park my car for most of the day.
Are you?
Warm Regards,
Krishnaraj Rao
Sahasi Padyatri
98215 88114

Candles lit for Ratan Tata, 70,000 ask him to save Orissa's turtles

20 May 2008
Candles lit for Ratan Tata, 70,000 ask him to save Orissa's turtles

Mumbai, India ­ Over thirty Mumbaikars, Greenpeace volunteers all, tonight lit thousands of candles on the rocks in front of Bakhtawar, Colaba, asking the building’s most famous resident, Mr. Ratan Tata, to shift his company’s upcoming port project from Dhamra in Orissa in order to save the endangered olive ridley sea turtles. The Dhamra port is being built close to the Gahirmatha beach, one of the world’s largest nesting grounds for the species.

The candles symbolized the growing number (70,000 at last count) of Indians who have written to Mr. Tata asking him to relocate the port and not the turtles (1). So far there has been no response from Mr. Tata to this outpouring of public sentiment against the TATA port.

“Mr. Tata has the reputation of a reasonable man who cares for our environment”, said Titus Jebaraj, Greenpeace volunteer, as he lit candles on the sea face. “People have been asking him for several years now to look for an alternative to this destructive port, in the interests of protecting one of the world’s last mass nesting grounds for this enigmatic and peaceful creature, which has been around for millions more years than the TATAs have!”

The Dhamra port is coming up less than 5 km. from the Bhitarkanika Sanctuary (India’s second largest mangrove forest and home to the saltwater crocodile) and less than 15 km. from the nesting beaches of the Gahirmatha Sanctuary. Conservationists and researchers have consistently raised concerns about the port’s impacts on the ecology since it was first proposed in the 1990s.

Mired in controversy, the Dhamra Port area has been denied protection twice now, compromising the local environment and the Olive Ridley Turtles. Existing evidence has proved beyond doubt that turtles inhabit the off-shore waters, while the port site itself has thrown up records of rare species (2).

More recently, international banking giant BNP Paribas has confirmed to Greenpeace that it is no longer refinancing a part of the Dhamra Port. This announcement came after the bank had commissioned an unnamed independent expert to look into environmental and social aspects concerning the project. Greenpeace had advised BNP Paribas that involvement in this project would not be in keeping with the Precautionary Approach, as the environmental and social assessment was not up to international standards (3).

“Scientists are opposed to the port, conservationists are against it, international lending institutions clearly want to protect their reputations, and now thousands of Indians – TATA customers most of them – are asking Mr. Tata to place the survival of this species above increasing TATA profits. What will it take for him to listen?,” asked Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner with Greenpeace.

Close to 70,000 people have now written to Mr. Tata via a cyber action at The letter campaign comes on the heels of over 100 international scientists and turtle researchers expressing their opposition to the port. A number of Indian organizations, including the Wildlife Protection Society of Orissa and the Wildlife Society of Orissa, are also asking Mr. Tata to respect the turtles’ breeding and nesting habitat and find alternatives to the port’s current location.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Bangalore Exhibition

This is how the Bangalore exhibition looked