|To Build Or Not To Build: ADA Caught In A Quandary|
|News - India|
|Written by Agratoday.in|
|Friday, 16 July 2010|
Agra (India): The construction frenzy that has gripped the mandarins in the Agra Development Authority (ADA), ahead of the Commonwealth Games, is causing a lot of anxiety and fear among environmentalists and land scape designers who have expressed concern at the lack of long-term vision and commitment to conserve the essential heritage character of the Mughal Metropolis with three world heritage sites.
The controversial Taj Heritage Corridor controversy cold-storaged, the new projects both, the new bridge coming up close to the Mughal monument Etmauddaula and the padestrian foot-overbridge obstructing the grand view of St. John's College, a red-sand-stone 150 year old educational institution that produced the likes of former president Shankar Dayal Sharma, have come in for sharp criticism.
Architectural monstrosities, haphazard urban planning, chaotic traffic movement along the main roads due to increasing number of encroachments, lack of pattern and thinking are self-evident, says Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society. "In the name of beautification, obstructions are being installed at road crossings. The MG Road widening plan into six lanes is in the pipeline and the ADA is senselessly going ahead with the overbridge construction. The city badly needs an Urban Arts Panel to guide and advise official town planners so that the essential character of the city is not lost," Sharma adds.
In addition to memorandums submitted to the divisional commissioner Radha S Chauhan, the protesters are using the Facebook platform to voice their concern against the Foot Overbridge (FOB) that is obstructing the grand view of the St. John's College building. The FOB has set local environmentalists and town planners fuming, because they fear it would spoil the beautiful visual ambience around a heritage building of the more than 150 year old St. John's College which has produced a stream of talents.
Though the mayor of Agra Anjula Singh Mahaur and the bureaucrats in the Agra Development Authority who had earlier in vain tried to market the idea of installing a "London Ferris Wheel" near the Taj Mahal, do not agree with the arguments of the landscape architects and environmentalists, questions are now being raised by various organisations why the Foot overbridge for padestrians, a bus stand and a three-wheeler stand being constructed at a frenzied pace could not be shifted a little distance away to pvovide unrestricted view of the College building which attracts numerous foreign visitors by its sheer beauty. The red sand stoned structure is unique in many respects and has been widely appreciated for its grandeur. A number of movies have used the location including Lal Patthar.
The college principal Dr. FM Prasad, activist-academic Dr. Madhurima Sharma and scores of students protested when the site survey team originally visited the area. A formal protest was sent to the divisional commissioner who heads the ADA, but the babus in the ADA showed hardly any concern for esthetics or urban arts. Later scores of voluntary organisations and the local media highlighted the gross callousness of the ADA, but so far the result has been a cypher as construction continues. The gaudy structure looks grotesque against a backdrop that has the red fort like educational institution.
Demands have also been made to constitute an urban arts panel in the city which should oversee and suggest suitable modifications in the urban plans. But the mindless and often haphazard urban constructions in the city are set to imbalance the heritage character of the Mughal metropolis, comments Shabana Khandelwal, general secretary of the UP Mahila Congress.
Abhinaya Prasad, director of the Skill Assessment and Certification Centre says "all arts and architecture loving people of Agra will have to raise their voice in a crescendo to force official agencies to stop the madness on MG Road."
Agra MP Ram Shankar Katheria has written to the divisional commissioner to stop the construction immediately and look for an alternative site.
Tanvir Zafar Ali, vice chairman of the ADA however says that all angles have been taken into consideration and steps taken to ensure that the beauty and the grandeur of St John's College is not compromised in any way. "People should have reacted earlier, the work is about to be finished now."
Mayor Anjula Singh Mahaur who laid the foundation of the FOB says initially there was no objection and many people in fact phoned her to congratulate her for the project.
This project apart, several other projects of the ADA have come under fire for not being in tune with the character of the city. "Obviously the bureaucrats have no idea about the high powered Dr. S Vardarajan committee report which outlined 20 odd recommendations for the development of the city, including restrictions on high rise buildings within ten kilometres of the Taj Mahal, but the ADA has promoted its own ADA Heights not too far away from the heritage building," says Hari Dutt Sharma, an educationist.
Many people in Agra feel the ADA is wasting tons of money on building roundabouts (traffic islands) on MG Road which needs unrestricted traffic flow. "When traffic light signals have been installed why create obstructions and the socalled Mughal artefacts that have been put there in the centre are so fragile and delicate that even a two wheeler would damage the structure," points out Sudhir Gupta, a car owner.
Already a plan to widen the MG Road is in place and structures would need to be replaced to make way for six lanes. "The new FOB (padestrian foot overbridge would need to be shifted then. Also the design is faulty, it would not serve any purpose other than providing another eyesore to be used by advertisers," argue the opponents of the project.
Elsewhere too in the city, urban planning or the lack of it is visible in myriad forms. People have renamed ADA as Agra Destruction Agency. "The reason why the mandarins in the ADA are able to have their way is because the 85 odd elected corporators of the Muncipal Corporation do not have a direct say in the running of the development body which lacks accountability and transparency. It is necessary to bring it under the control of the Muncipal Corporation where those elected can discuss the urban plans. Right now the babus are too arrogant and feel that the corporators are a set of duffers. This is an insult to democratic institutions," comments social activist Netra Pal Singh.
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