Chandigarh’s poll debate - to grow vertically or not

May 9th, 2009 - 12:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Alkesh Sharma
Chandigarh, May 9 (IANS) Legendary French architect Le Corbusier, who designed Chandigarh in the 1950s, was against vertical growth or big buildings in this city, but the issue has emerged as important poll propaganda in the parliamentary elections here.

While the Congress doesn’t quite agree, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been trying to woo the masses by promising the construction of flyovers and permission to build an additional floor to buildings if the party comes to power at the centre. Chandigarh, a union territory with one seat, goes to the polls May 13.

“We have to understand that with the changing times, flyovers and metro rail have become the need of the hour. With the increasing population and vehicular density, we need at least five flyovers in Chandigarh,” Satya Pal Jain, the BJP candidate contesting from the Chandigarh constituency, told IANS.

Jain claimed, “The Zirakpur flyover (near Chandigarh) was originally the brainchild of our party and we gave the consent when everyone was opposing it. However, the Congress party delayed its construction by stopping funds for nearly two years. Now, when it has been completed, they want to take credit.”

The Zirakpur flyover, which links Chandigarh to New Delhi via Ambala, was thrown open to vehicular traffic last year. It helps avoid to a great extent traffic jams and congestion - which had become a regular feature on the highway.

“Congress leaders give statements that flyovers would destroy the beauty of the city. One should simply ask them the question if flyovers have destroyed the beauty of Delhi or any other metro city?” Jain asked.

The city, the first planned one in post-independent India, came into being in the early 1950s through the design of Le Corbusier and his team. Its total geographical area is around 140 sq km, with 114 sq km of land and 25.42 sq km being occupied by the Sukhna lake and wildlife sanctuary.

“After winning the elections, we will also allow the construction of one additional floor in all residential and commercial buildings. We would also try to assure that the provision of an additional floor would not disturb the basic character of the city as planned by Corbusier,” stated Jain.

Chandigarh was originally planned for 500,000 residents, but is now home to over 1.1 million people, including over 300,000 slum dwellers. It also has the maximum vehicle density in the country with over 700,000 registered vehicles here.

Disproving the need for flyovers in Chandigarh, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Chandigarh’s sitting Congress MP and minister of state for finance, told IANS, “I personally feel flyovers and vertical growth always point towards the degeneration of any city.”

“We are known as ‘City Beautiful’ across the world, so we should live up to our name. We need to save our heritage character, as we are famous for our unique roundabouts and exceptional greenery. We should try to maintain them rather than focus on such unwanted things,” said Bansal.

Bansal also said the metro rail was not feasible until Chandigarh and its neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh collectively worked in that direction.

“We want elevated roads here and the comprehensive growth of the entire union territory,” said Bansal.

He, however, refused to comment on mega projects like Film-City, Medi-City and amusement parks that were initiated in the last five years here, but many of which are now hanging fire and are under vigilance inquiry.

BJP’s Jain said, “They (the administration) have bought the lands of poor farmers at throwaway prices in the name of development to fulfil their own vested interests.”

“It is strange that the Congress MP is helpless before the Congress-appointed administrator of the city. These mega projects are big scams, worth crores, and are going on under the nose of our home ministry,” said Jain.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in)

-Indo-Asian News Service

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