Thursday, March 1, 2007

Scale and Dislocations

Dear all,

Today as I drove past the Chirag Delhi flyover, I saw that the roadside basti of nomads was no more. Nor was their pavement market of metal forged objects or their carts where they lived. Instead there was a familiar sheet barricaded line of HCBC, or High Capacity Bus Service, the new delively vehicle for our city. As I saw from my car at the red light a fight broke out amongst the dwellers, amongst their wares scaterred on the road. Stick were drawn and knives came out as people struggled to break the scuffle. Who knows what tensions must be brewing amongst people with no home anymore. The light changed, without my noticing, till the blaring horns made me drive on, whizz past what I had become used to whizzing past these past months.

Earlier for days I had been watching in horror the tree lined avenues being cleaned of decade old trees. Transport corridors have taken over, as the commonwealth games become the defacto justification for all projects. The Conservator of Forests told me that for the metro alone over 35,000 trees had been cut. Another 2500 will go for the High Capacity Bus Service, and and over 20,000 for other road widning projects. Some trees evena hundred years old with girths of over 7 to 10 ft. All axed! As I sit on the Ridge Management Board, for the past three weeks we have had to deal with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) the holy cow of the city and its pride. They want to go through the protected Ridge Forest for 2.5 km , cut several hundred trees, to connect Delhi to neighbouring Gurgaon. Simeltaneouly an 8 lane high way is being proposed joining Delhi to Gurgaon. Going underground will cost 500 crores more they argue. I say to them that that is merely the cost of two plots of land in lutyen;s Delhi, who is to decide what is more important - a 2 billion year old Ridge or an ugly overground metro. The heritage guys had more clout - they pushed it away from Qutub Minar onto the Ridge. Well at least the build heritage has politcal agency. Alongside the old, tree and bird rich Sunder Nursery is slated to be sacrificed to an underground transport corridor. Who is to say what is needed or not. All process is lost and all rationality based on balance is not important it seems. However, the scale of this change leaves me still, unable to move.

Which way should I react as an environmentalist. For over a decade I knew. Now I know not. When you are in the midst of a tsunami, what do you do? It is something they did not teach me. How to deal with scale? It is no longer a sum of small things. Small actions do not seem to matter. My human time cannot adapt to the implosion. Has the idea of something become so large now that I as an individual do not matter? Is there any single perputator any more? Or are we just caught in a moment much larger than ourselves?

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