The Draft Master Plan for Trivandrum’s development, being discussed now, is a complete “cement-and-mortar” plan camouflaged in a green dressing. Drafted by town planners and engineers, with no civic participation, it is at best a classical formula for shaving of the last remaining green patches within the city, and converting it into a jungle of cement structures. Let me elaborate – The Plan document begins with Mahatma Gandhi once calling this city – the “Evergreen city of India”. But reading through the rest of the 357 pages of this colourful volumnious document, we will soon realise that by 2031, there is hardly any patch of green left, especially in the core and major residential and commercial areas in the city. For a visual treat of this shock, one has to take a close look at the two maps provided for 2013 and for 2031.
The Plan document reveals how inspite of many earlier plans and revised plans that the city had for its development, two things have happened quite religiously over these years – first, that all master plans have been completely violated, especially to accommodate some of the big builders, and corrupt officials in the Town Planning Departments. A classical case is the two huge, unaesthtic flats that stand as a sky-scrapping eye-sore in the heritage area of the Kowdiar Square. Second, the plan document itself says that “only 20% of the green zones in the sanctioned master plan (1971) is actually green now, and only about 30% of the greens in the revised master plan (1993) is actually green now”. If this is so, then why do we need a master plan to waste time, effort and money ?
The Draft plan that has been submitted has completely ignored one of the most worrying concerns of any planner anywhere in the globe now – and that is climate change. How Climate resilient is our draft plan, especially give the fact that our water tables are going down, our water resources are getting polluted and depleted and worst the average hot days are going up. This is where a real blue-green plan would matter the most. The Plan should incorporate a massive greening action programme in all the four development zones, covering every possible residential, public and commercial space, even while reserving all the possible green zone areas as no development zones (parks, naturally forest like patches, undeveloped private lands etc), even in the high development zones. And this should be strictly implemented. While the document laments the lack of open and public spaces, it talks about commercial complexes and bus stations even in the highly crowded Attakulangara area, that would need the cutting down of atleast 60 huge trees in the school compound. Why not retain the school as a public space or even a community park ? The plan has estimated a density of population of 7500 persons / sq km in the core area and like wise lesser in the other areas. Then why not an indicator such as density of trees for these areas ? Why not ensure that all areas would have a minimum of 75% green cover, increasing to 100% as it goes into the lesser commercial zones. One is reminded of the thumb rule that the renowned architect and planner Charles Correa said of trivandrum – Do not let your city grow above the coconut tree !!
(This was published in the Speak Out Column of the Deccan Chronicle Daily on 30th May 2013)
For downloading a copy of the Draft Trivandrum Master Plan go to http://www.corporationoftrivandrum.in/master-plan-draft