Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Reinventing Cochin Cycle Rally 09

The Curious Case of Signals atop the South Bridge

Being preoccupied with the Cycle Rally left me with little time to record some of the more curious and sometimes downright bizarre going-ons in the City of my Youth, namely Kochi. Now that I have time on my hands once again, I find it categorical I put my observations into words.

The tale I have for my beloved Bloggers today is "The Curious Case of Signals atop the South Bridge"! No doubt those of you who traverse those roads would have seen them grinning from atop their heavenly abode, mounted atop shiny black poles! They look like early Christmas celebrations, put up perhaps by an overly enthusiastic City Administration to celebrate the Holiday Spirit. Very Bright too... and shiny.

Ever wondered what they were doing atop a bridge though? Apart from wresting innocent drivers attention from their steering wheels, I mean! I don't drive and so won't claim to know much about the art, but it seems to me to be very unlikely for drivers to want to break atop any bridge! And even if we are encouraged to, I wouldn't want to break my vehicle at an uncomfortable obtuse or 90 degree angle! However, a maths freak would enjoy it of course, " If car A started from the bottom of the bridge and stopped midway between Signal no. 2 and Signal no.3, at what angle to the road would his vehicle be situated at?" May be they wish to encourage geometry!

Nonsense aside, I fail to conceive a plausible reason for traffic signals, that too 4 of them atop a small bridge. While it is true that traffic does cause mayhem and that South Bridge records some of the worst of it, a bit of traffic management, a dash of patience and a good bit of maneuvering is all that one requires to survive it!

What next?, this bewildered Kochiite wonders?

Cyclists for 're-inventing' Cochin


Reinventing Cochin Cycle Rally on 5th Dec was an occasion to revolutionize to a new mode of transportation in the city. 350 pedal pushers hit the road for re-inventing the city. Minister for Transport Jose Thettayil inaugurated the rally at Durbar Hall grounds at 7.30 a.m. and Mayor Mercy Williams flagged off the rally. K.B. Venugopal, Assistant Commissioner of Police, City Traffic (West); Vinu Mohan, actor; and Shamsudeen, District Sports Council member, were also present.The rally made one full circle along M.G. Road, Banerjee Road, Marine Drive, Park Avenue and was back at the DH ground by 9 a.m.

Cycling is one of the most efficient modes of non-motorized transportation system. Cities have realized its multi-faceted potential in being eco-friendly, affordable and healthy. Cycling also transcends barriers of class, age and physical ability. It is an expression of freedom. It is a symbol of equality and human dignity. It will help Kochi rebrand it self from a disorganized agglomeration into a ‘people oriented’ city. A city for ‘ALL’!!!

Reinventing Cochin Cycle Rally organised by CPPR with the support of Corporation of Cochin and Kochi City Police and NGOs like Green Dream and AIESEC International.Ti Cycles, Red FM, City Silks, Nestle, Levi and K R Bakes were other major partners for the event.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sponsor a leg....


Yup... you heard it right!

Sponsor your leg... and you won't regret it!!! Loads of incentives to help you along the way - free t-shirts and refreshments!!!

Cycle in Gods own Country... So... watcha waiting for people???

Be a Pedal Pusher!!!



Hear ye, hear ye!!!

Call to all the health conscious, the eco-friendly inclined and urban-reform oriented Kochiietes!!!!

Pedal on the 5th of December from Darbar Hall Ground and back for a better City!

Some people express themselves through music, some through dance and yet others through art... A PEDAL PUSHER expresses his OPINION by cycling for positive City change...

Cycle alongside those you've elected to represent you... Cycle with your friendly City Police... Cycle alongside your peers, colleagues, friends and families... cycle for your believes, your convictions and your ideas... CYCLE FOR FUN, FITNESS AND CHANGE..

Reinventing Cochin Cycle Rally 2009!

FUN… FITNESS…. CHANGE….!!!
Call for
‘Reinventing Cochin’


Cities are a part of our lives and language. Globally, the dimensions of city culture have changed to accommodate the growing needs of the city people. Cities are mostly places where people meet for leisure and pleasure. It should accordingly, open up, invite and include people, and offer various avenues for entertainment. With the ever-increasing environmental and health concerns, a city where shopping and entertainment go hand-in-hand with environmental consciousness is a dream which should transcend into a reality. However, urbanism in the cities can be generated only if we have ecological and socially sustainable platforms. Only this can herald a vibrant city.

A country mirroring varied cultures and lifestyle, the India of today is redefined by its upscale cities, which lead a global existence. Indian cities have grown at alarming rates; unfortunately they are not landmarks of much, except perhaps haywire traffic and pollution. Our new-age cities are unplanned agglomerations that suffer from bad traffic, pollution, complex life situations and lack of insight. And Kochi is no different.

Kochi, identified by governmental records as a metropolis, is a city with a population of 13.55 lakhs. It is a mjor contributor to Kerala’s economy, contributing upto 14% of the state GDP. But city life is literally in shambles. Infrastructure-wise, narrow roads and traffic congestion, speeding buses, unplanned medians and flooded roads, lack of pedestrian sidewalks and open drains have all turned life worse for the average Kochiite. The city has ceased to be environment-friendly as well. There is a marked absence of green open spaces. Trees are cut down in order to make way for swank helipads and concrete development. Waste disposal has come to mean dumping it in the most unlikely of spaces. Also, the growing number of vehicles cause considerable ecological damage through emissions and noise from internal combustion engines. An AQI up to 50 is regarded as good while the 51-100 range is considered moderate. Anything above 100 is considered unhealthy while those above 150 are considered down right harmful. In Kochi, the Air Quality Index (AQI) readings are from between 160-200 on an average. All this mayhem warrants immediate action.
In pursuit of discovering newer ways to energize city life and to help build a ‘people oriented city’ Reinventing Cochin, one of the leading initiatives of Centre for Public Policy Research, is seeking to organize a campaign unlike any other - a Cycle Rally! The Rally, sought to be held during the 5th of December 2009 to coincide with the World Pollution Prevention Day and the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009, is aimed at reviving the luster of greenery and the power of easy mobility that Kochi is slowly, but surely losing. This, we believe can be achieved by efficiently integrating cycling into mainstream transportation.
Cycling is one of the most efficient modes of non-motorized transportation system. Cities have realized its multi-faceted potential in being eco-friendly, affordable and healthy. Cycling also transcends barriers of class, age and physical ability. It is an expression of freedom. It is a symbol of equality and human dignity. It will help Kochi rebrand it self from a disorganized agglomeration into a ‘people oriented’ city. A city for ‘ALL’!!!

So…Join us in breathing life back into the city – towards a safer, eco-friendly, healthy and fun Kochi! Healthy City, Healthy You, today and tomorrow!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jai Ho!

I had gone for the ARR Jai Ho concert in Chennai, and it took place in this never-heard-before part of Chennai. All of us who had gone there were awestruck by the sheer magnitude of advertisement that they had given to a particular company. Later we realised, the concert was sponsored by that particular company, at their new construction plot. Whilst my Tamil friends found it quite normal, me and another friend from Kerala were quite awestruck. Quite awestruck, because nobody, mind you, nobody, the government nor the local parties nor the workers nor the media nor the common people bothered about it. They in fact were happy about the company organising a concert, whatever be the reason. The construction plot was deserted and barren, but still was called "Swarnabhoomi". And us, the mallus, couldn't have been more surprised. But yes, we both agreed on one point, that it would soon turn to a swarnabhoomi, literally. And, that if, IF in case this was in our own beautiful state, a hartal or an opposition frm trade unions would have stalled the construction, let alone the concert. It would have been perceived as a cheap marketing tactic. Jai ho TamilNadu, Jai ho!
We left the concert wondering how longer it would take for our state to learn something from our neighbour.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Parlour under the Bridge.

Sounds very cliché doesn’t it? No, you guessed wrong! It’s not a harlequin romance or some cheesy chic-lit. It’s an actual ice cream parlour under the Marine Drive Bridge, here in the heart of the Kochi city! While it certainly has a name by itself, I fancy my tasteful title to be the better contender. Besides, I’m sure they’d appreciate the anonymity! 

When Onam celebrations at the office concluded with a delightful walk down the Marine Drive and at the parlour under it’s bridge, I was a bit miffed, being the self proclaimed ice cream aficionado that I am, that something so picturesque managed to completely escape my sights and taste buds. The ice cream, while it wont be giving Baskin Robbins a run for its money anytime soon, has a certain appeal to it when you eat it watching the waters and breathing in its salty air.

This brings us back to what I initially intended to speak about. The architecture is a fine example of Urban Planning and space utilization. The Parlour is not immediately visible when you glance at Marine Drive and that’s its only drawback. Its clientele are probably regular visitors to the area who clearly know the spot. But the parlour, advertised to be Greater Kochi’s attempt at beautifying our city, has achieved at least two of its goals. It’s certainly relaxing to watch the boats passing by while you recline there and it is most definitely neat and tidy, which is, unfortunately more than you can say for most places in Kochi.

It’s neatly tucked away under the Bridge thereby reducing clutter which would have occurred, say, had the structure been smack dab in the middle of Drive! And by artfully fitting it under the Bridge, GCDA managed to do something else as well (which am not sure has come to their attention yet) and that is reduce littering space for Kochieties. We are an interesting breed in that any space that we know to be relatively empty and not being somebody else’s parking lot, we’re more than happy to pile it with garbage and let the same rot and fill the air with its fragrance. It seems that by ensuring a lack of empty spaces alone, will we be able to remedy this problem!

And speaking of space utilization, I fail to understand why the empty spaces under the four main bridges dotting the city cannot be put to a better use. True, some are over rivers and parallel to railway lines. Nor do I insist that there be an ice cream parlour under every bridge. But I still encounter a lot of free urban space. This is why it can be converted to a parking lot, an auto stand, a government run hotel or even better, public toilets! How convenient would it seem to a vary traveller, to find the most basic amenities close at hand and together!

Further, Kochi has been on a mad drive to make itself eco-friendly. What of the many bus stands within the city? With buses parked this way and that, a true estimate of the actual space in a bus stand is never really made. If buses would, for once forgoing their chaotic way of life, line up in an orderly fashion, I warrant there would be space enough for some creative construction. And what better way to do so than ensuring a vehicle parking lot-and-cycle rental under the Bridge? Vehicles can be parked under the bridge and people can rent cycles and take off into the city. Eco-friendly and Efficient!

What, a bit to advanced for you? Not that I blame you. I personally know people who enjoy the clutter of the city and I will grudgingly admit to having been its closet fan in the past. But not at the expense of urban progress.

There was a time when such urban creative constructions were touted as being heretical, but these days, with more and more people voicing such concerns, I see the Kochieties cynicism being replaced with scepticism. Perhaps, all is not well in ‘Gods own Country'???

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

India to E-ndia.

The world today, is at my finger tips. Yeah, the cliche statement about how the internet brings you closer to the world and such. But then, at times, cliche statements are the best way to put things forward.

What I am talking about, is the launch of this website: www.rtination.com. What it gives you is, a much much easier way of filing RTI applications. You register yourself on the website, fill in your application, pay a nominal fee, and they deliver your application. What I found easy was, I just sit in my room, filling an RTI application while I might be listening to music, or enjoying a cup of tea( that is how the website puts it: let's make changes in India while enjoying a cup of tea) and pay a charge of 125 Rs and let RTINation do the rest of the work. Saves time and effort. Well, that is another addition to the facilitator's bandwagon, what with facilitators in almost all other fields. However, this definitely sounds good, because the website seems to be getting decent amount of hits, with applications ranging from development of Vizag airport to midday meal schemes. Let's just hope this keeps the RTI act alive, and helps in promoting RTI as well.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

" Meet Kochi, metropolis and commercial hub, cultural melting-pot of Kerala and the belly of all that is the best of Southern India!

Meet the Kochiete. Accelerated Progress is what they live by. Change is their nature and Challenge is in their blood.

Watch Kochi come together for a reason! She will run for what she believes are her rights! For better infrastructure, better participation, better governance, for a better tomorrow!

Kochi today. The World tomorrow!

Are you a Kochiete?

Are you up for the dare?

Are you ready to ‘Run. Challenge. Change?’"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kochi Marathon 2010

The Kochi Marathon 2010, slotted for the 10th of January 2010, is a long-distance foot race which aims the participation of the Kochiites for the welfare of the city. It is a platform for all the citizens of the city of Cochin to come together and share their aspirations for bringing in internationally standardized infrastructural development to the city. It further provides the city with a platform to come together in a celebration that cuts across social and economic barriers.

It is a follow up plan for “Reinventing Cochin” a project carried out in the city of Cochin by Centre for Public Policy and Research. It is an attempt to ensure the participation of all the people in the city, in the efforts of the organization to transform the city into a world class model.

Cochin is a historically renowned centre of commerce and has a unique niche in the world tourism map. However, lack of infrastructural facilities, especially in terms poor condition of roads, have been often a hurdle for her economic development and a blot on her pristine image. Owing to this reason the livability of the city also has been at stake. The project, “Reinventing Cochin” has identified many internationally acclaimed developmental projects for dealing with this problem. However they can not come into fruition without the support and participation of the residents of the city. Cochin Marathon 2010 is the first effort in this regard.

Development of the city of Cochin will definitely ensure the development of all the stakeholders in the city. With this view in mind Cochin Marathon 2010 will ensure the participation and collaboration of all the stakeholders in the city. All the people in the city can participate in the run either as runners or as volunteers. Besides, all the International, National and local business enterprises which have a stake in the city can join with the organizers of the event as sponsors of the event.


For enquiries, please contact cppr@cppr.in


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vyttila Mobility Hub

Traffic solutions from abroad





KOCHI: The number of vehicles in Kochi has increased from 91,411 in 1989-90 to 9,38,124 in 2007-08, showing an average yearly growth of 13 percent. With cabs and vans adding to the vehicle fleet every year, there is overcrowding on the roads. There is a matching rise in the sale of scooters and motorbikes as well.

According to the records of the Motor Vehicles Department, about 2000 vehicles are registered in the city limits in a month, 85 percent of which are private vehicles. There are about 630 city buses, 3000 autorickshaws, 6500 taxis and countless cars and motorcycles on crammed city roads according to a study by the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR).

“There is no need to worry. Mobility hubs could be the solution to ease traffic, for a sustainable transportation concept in your city,” said Susan Zielinski, managing director, Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research & Transportation (SMART), Centre for Advancing Research & Solutions for Society, University of Michigan.

“You need to back such plans which will take the load off the public road system. Such plans should get the boost from the common traveller who feels frustrated every time he ends in a traffic jam,” added Gordan Feller, chief executive officer, Urban Age Institute, USA.

Both experts were in the city to participate in a discussion on an invitation from the CPPR to interact with the officials on the SMART concept which could be introduced in the city.

“The fact that the city is thinking of a physical facility as a solution to handle the traffic is a vital step,” said Gordon. Susan, who was a city councillor in Toronto, later on advocated the cause of sustainable transport.

‘The investment for such development comes from public-private ventures.

The idea is to increase connectivity, get the people to use the public transport system and help public and private business growth,’ she said.

Gordon feels that entrepreneurs around the world have to realise that the social infrastructure is up for sale.

“The more comfortable and peopleoriented you make it, the more markets you retain. So now, Smart Companies are competing with each other to offer high quality living to people.” The scenario is same in all cities across the world where the authorities are afraid of change. “We actually did a cycle choir campaign on the streets to put across the message that we need cycle lanes,” says Susan. The cops and the authorities couldn’t prevent us because we did a very peaceful campaign.

“A year later, the city council cleared the project for the cycle lane.” Gordon believes that the culmination of small, individual decisions made by people give way to a huge decision, which has its impact on everyone.

The most crucial factor is that the policy makers who have always had leverage, now also have the understanding to realise that it is not the million dollar projects that foster change but the small allocations. The little prods and pushes that add value to a project take it beyond change into the sphere of transformation.

Susan concluded by saying that in 2005, SMART began work with Ford Motor Company and a range of other business, government, and NGO partners to address sustainable transportation issues and opportunities in the developing world. Over time many more partners have joined the effort.

More recently, similar work began in Washington DC, Atlanta, Ann Arbor, Detroit and Los Angeles.

Are the existing transportation services at the location underused? Could they benefit from marketing and branding with a hub and from the new transportation services?? Is the location under-serviced? Does the existing transit service already operate at capacity? Would attracting more riders pose a problem for the transit provider? Would developing a hub at this location encourage people to not take out their cars, or would it just be transferring trips from one mode to another? were some of the questions that the two experts felt needed to be addressed when planning a mobility hub.

“Solutions have to be localised,” they said. “There is no point in looking at other cities, because your city is yours alone!!”

Vyttila Mobility Hub

Mobility hub at Vytilla proposed

http://www.hindu.com/2009/07/12/stories/2009071259350300.htm

Government likely to consider project to streamline traffic flow in the city


KOCHI: The State government is expected to consider a city mobility project that has been prepared with Vytilla as the hub, in a fortnight.

The project aims at solving a good share of commuting problems in the city by creating amenities in and around the Vytilla Junction, by integrating different modes of transport like roadways, metro rail, railways and waterways. It was prepared for the CII-Kerala by the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), with help from the Kumar Group of architects. The report that was submitted recently to the District Collector, was discussed at an interactive session organised here on Saturday by the CPPR on ‘Connecting the dots: A smart approach to solving traffic and transport issues in the developed world’.

Referring to the reports by RITES in 2001, NATPAC in 2006 and the city mobility plan, the project speaks of the need to relocate the Kaloor private bus stand and the KSRTC bus stand out of the city, to an integrated and futuristic terminal at Vytilla, so that there is less congestion in the city. The Agriculture Department and Kerafed own 25 acres of land near the junction and this is ideal to host the mobility hub where long-distance buses and KSRTC services can be based. There would be space to park 220 buses, 900 cars and 120 autorickshaws. A shopping mall, food courts, cultural centre, hotel, swimming pool, waterfront and boat jetty too can be set up.

From Vytilla, public transport systems can provide connectivity with the western and eastern parts of the city, West Kochi, and also regional hubs like Vypeen, Palarivattom, Kakkanad, Thripunithura and Aroor. Vytilla is also well- connected with National Highways 47, 17 and 49, the seaport and the airport. The proposed metro rail passes through the junction and National Waterway III is located close by. By basing operations in Vytilla, the KSRTC and private buses would be able to save huge amounts on fuel, apart from the time saved in not entering the city. Thus, the Vytilla mobility hub has evolved as a natural remedy and is envisioned as a long-term solution to Kochi’s transporting problems.

The report points to the ever-widening gap between the growing number of vehicles, inadequate roads and unscientific infrastructure that have turned life worse for Kochiites, making living and working in the city a less desirable proposition.

The steep increase in the number of private vehicles, the resultant commotion and pollution undermine progress.

Despite this, public transport systems operate in a very inflexible manner. Apart from the 630 private city buses, the numerous mofussil buses operate mainly from the private bus terminal at Kaloor and the KSRTC stand. They ply along the high demand corridors like Banerji Road, M.G. Road and S.A. Road

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Lost 'Cochin'!

Once upon a time, there lived a girl who dwelled in the heart of the 'Green' Cochin. The place was a heaven for her. She grew up at the sight of a beautiful and serene city. She smelled the fragrance of mother earth, played on the streets, relished the pleasant ride in the city and enjoyed the cool evenings at Marine Drive.

Then one day 'dark clouds' masked the city. Buildings began to replace trees, the roads were shrinking, mother earth was impregnated and smelled of scraps and the delightful ride in the city turned out to be a pain. The 'dark clouds' can be mentioned to any type of developments that the city was expecting in the 21st century!!!

The girl still lives in the city with a cry of lost beauty of Cochin!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

there is always a huge cry about the traffic problems, the pavement problems, garbage problems etc in the city. but the infrastructure development of the outskirts of the city is hardly been discussed. concerns pop up once in blue moon, but they are easily forgotten by people and authorities.

there is much to talk about fort cochin area, where i hail from. the general perception is

'Fort Kochi=Garbage+Mosquitoes'

this is not a recent phenomena. it's been there since ages. gcda, corporation,councillors... everyone has given up and the mosquitoes are ruling the place. garbage bins are always leaking and the cattle wandering on the road like playing with the food packets and plastic wastes.during monsoon the situation is worse. waste of food articles get pasted on road and the plastic bags float in the monsoon water. the drainages are closed in some parts in unscientific manner. this blocks water from its smooth flow through drainage. so the residents get free training in swimming in this 'pure' water.


but recently as the water flow in Rameswaram canal is blocked, people have to swim even inside their houses. the canal is not cleaned frequently it is one of the main reasons for never ending 'mosquitoes'. there are fog engines, 'fog mans' ..... but now the situation is such that mosquitoes can't exist without them! now the residents celebrate the 'mosquito culture' through conducting competitions in mosquito catching.

Bus bays along S.A.Road

I always get down at bus stops along S.A.Road. However, I have always wondered, why there werent any bus bays along the road, given that it is wide enough. The problem is, when you say you want to get down at a particular stop, and you get the ticket for the same, the buses dont consider the stops as the points where you want to get down. They always drop you off somewhere around the point you want to get down at, often a few metres away from the stop. I have had to get down in the middle of the road many a times, when there were mild traffic jams near the stops. And then I would have to play a game of mazes, making my way around the vehicles, finding a safer way to walk. Or, I would have to get down a few metres in front of the designated bus stop, and walk all the way back. ( That, when you dont even have a pavement along the road! That is a different issue though.)

However, it doesnt work the other way round. If you want to board a bus, you wait at the proper bus stop. Else, the buses dont stop and pick you up.

If, however, we were to have properly designed bus bays, we could eliminate this problem. Bus bays would enable the passengers to wait comfortably, and would also ensure their safety while boarding and getting down. It would also be safer for buses to stop as well, since they are moving out of the rest of the traffic. Standard width needed for a bus bay is around 12 feet, and given the width of the road, it shouldnt be hard to accomodate bus bays.

Pothole's own country

The title, I believe, is quite self explanatory. Though quite blunt and probably even offending, it is the reality. Come rainy season, and we have potholes and gutters( read, ponds and lakes) emerging on the roads from nowhere. Pedestrians cannot walk on the roads without stepping to atleast one of these. Either you have to master the art of recognising and then jumping across wide puddles and potholes, or else you have to put up with stepping into all of them. And if you are lucky enough, you might even manage to fall into a drainage which hasn't been cleaned for ages(read, maybe from the days of Hitler)

Pictures of people falling into ditches and potholes on roads are scattered across the newspapers almost everyday. No wonder, accident rates go up during rainy season. It is something like a chain reaction. One person falls into a pothole, the next one trips over him, and so on. Whilst many people across the world travel to Kerala to witness the monsoon, is this what we want to show them? Let alone visitors, think about school children who have to bear the brunt. Most cities now have school roads, which are designed with school children in mind. But here, in Kochin, we have our school children having a hard time walking to their schools. By the time they reach, they are all wet and dirty.

Now the question is, do we want this drama of filling potholes and gutters every year? It has almost become like this annual ritual. You have rains coming, potholes emerging, and then newspapers and channels reporting it, and then as a concluding ceremony, the PWD department filling the holes, only to go through the whole cycle once again, next year. Maybe, it is high time we re-think the tar and bituminous type of road surfacing that we have.

gate adakal!

today morning i got blocked near willingdon island 'level crossing' as a train had to pass. this thought, which i am goin to share now occured to me as cochin might be the only 'big city' in south india which still has a 'level crosssing system'. as far as i know neither in bangalore nor in hyderabad the road transport has to wait for a train to pass. i enquired with my friends and they told me that it's not happening in chennai too. cochin, which is boasting to be one of the best cities in india in next 5 years or so still lack basic infrastructure for road transport.

passengers from paravur to ernakulam and vice versa have a dreadful picture of edappally level crossing because the railway gate is notorious for it's non-cooperation, and often creates trouble. the road is too narrow and insufficient for heavy vehicles to pass on. though government has acquired land for building a wider road, the progress is still taped in a file. it takes at least an hour to remove traffic block in this particular area.situation is not different in many other places inside the city limits. people have been crying for over bridges but authorities are not opening their eyes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Walk in The Rain


Rain evokes different kinds of feelings in different people. Some might like it, some might be overwhelmed by the very sight of it,some might hate the clumsiness of it, or dislike the smell etc etc. I love rain in all senses. But yesterday i had to walk in the rain, in one of the roads of ' the centre of mosquitoes', Fort Kochi. The waste from the drainage system which was totally dysfunctional was floating in the 'mini flood'. This water was splashing on the pedestrians whenever a vehicle passed. I saw a bike rider falling in this water. People had to literally swim to reach the shore. Human waste, animal waste, inorganic wastes, small insects, mosquitoes, smell - everything gave the rain a 'terrible' picture in my mind.

And this is 'Greater Cochin Development'.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Walk in The Park

The Arabian Sea looks onto Kochi with the eyes of a lover. So ardent, so intense. I have always enjoyed their chemistry right from the age I have fancied love. Thanks to the Cochin corporation, they have been so sensitive to this romance and to the responding nature of Kochiites. There are two parks been build right in the heart of the city and also a wide walking space all along the Marine Drive for the people to enjoy the view of the backwaters and also the splendid Cheenavalapalam and Mazhavilpalam. These all are here to compliment your urge to relax after the tiresome day consumed in the office or to spent some quality time with your family amidst the city buzz.

Parks are necessary in every city. Those green shady niches are really an escape for the city population to relax and inhale some fresh air.The idea of a community park popped up in somebody's mind was just for this simple reason. but today, the word park is associated to children. atleast in Kochi. But the concern is not that. We have two parks located adjacent to each other in the Convent Road. One is a public park and the other is the children's park. The public park is free for the public whereas the children's park charges an entry fee of Rs. 5 from an adult. Both these parks are two common hangout places for Kochiites. Long ago.

The scenario has changed topsy turvy now. This blog is with special reference to the Childrens' Park and the Renewable Energy Park constructed inside the park.I had visited the park few days before with regard to my project on biogas which is a renewable source of energy. My entry to this park is the motive for my blog. The Cochin Corporation launched the Renewable Energy Park right inside the Childrens' Park so that the children as well as their parents get familiarised with the renewable sources of energy and make it popularised in the city. It has models of solar water heater, solar battery and how it can be used to generate electricity and also solar cookers, windmills, biogas plant model etc. The Corporation spent lakhs of rupees in this venture and it was bloated by the media well.

Years have passed since its inception and the media lost interest in it. And there lies the Renewable Energy Park at the backyard of the Park unvisited by children or their parents and haunted by tall grasses grown. The models of the windmill and solar panels and biogas plants lay rusted in the ground and the those models when asked to be demonstrated, the person appointed in charge was busy packing his things to go home said in an indifferent manner with a slight tint of sarcasm, that "it won't work. its been so for months!" I had to return disappointed but what made me even more disappointed is the indifferent attitude of the people. Isnt there anybody to just ask why it isn't working. And this park has restricted entry only but still are not they using the money they gain to maintain the park? atleast mow the grass?

Hope there would be greener response to this from the part of the corporation and the Kochiites.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Where r the butterflies?

remember the old days u were mesmerised by those little insects with beautiful printed wings that fluttered from flower to flower in search of neactar. n how u wished to touch its velvety wings and caress them in hands. hoping that u gently tryied to get hold of it and lo! its gone...n the chase begins...u chase it all over the place and ur friends join u in the race n the butterfly fluttered all around and its panic mused u.
now those memories remain as memories. u no longer see those butterflies in ur garden nor in ur neighbourhood!!! u dont find them happily drinking nectar from flowers and those beautiful winged friends are no longer the city kid's friends when matched to playstations and animated videos.
but its a pity to know that the disappearance of butterfly is not because of televison or internet but attributed to a greater villain called the pollution. the climatic conditions have been altered so much so that the butterflies no longer could adapt to the atmospheric changes. moreover, mushrooming of apartments and loss of free green land and free compounds have forced them to search greener pastures.
another factor is the economic point of view of the butterflies! there has been a substantial decrease in the supply of flowers. yeah, technically speaking, we have been importing flowers from tamil nadu.true.so human demand for flowers has increased.so have the butterfly's! but the only problem is they want it fresh.direct from plant. but we humans have so fond of dead fraozen items that we should be called scavengers instead of omnivores.so the supply of fresh flowers became a problem for them in city so they moved on to the nearest available forests(may be very a long distance for them) in search of flowers. since distance became a problem for them, they settled in there and said goodbye to the city. as a result, butterflies has now became an animated reality for the kids of this generation. and those winged friends of yesteryears have confined themselves to the books of a kindergarden student.
B for butterfly!

Traffic woes

Much has been said and almost nothing done about the traffic woes in Cochin. As someone who uses public transport frequently, I have always found it irritating that I have to wait inside the bus for half an hour or more than that to pass a stretch of maybe less than 500 m. One thought that has always come across my mind is to get off the bus, forego the passenger fare that I paid, and walk to my destination. But, thanks to the pathetic situation of pavements(if there are) and reckless drivers I refrain from doing so. Much of this problem has been aggravated by the presence of numerous private vehicles. I do not get the point of using a personal vehicle, if the average speed that you can drive at is a mere 10-20 km/hr, or even less than that. Car pooling and such measures have always been suggested, but it doesnt work out most of the time, because of a lack of voluntary nature.

What is the other alternative then? Enforcing. When something is imposed on you, you always follow it.Because there is no question of what if I don't or why should I. It is always you should, because the law says so. That is the only choice you have. Well, now how would that fit into solving traffic problems and providing comfortable travel? Radical as it may sound, what we can do is impose a traffic free road. And it is not like it hasn't been done before. Many roads in New York City have successfully implemented the same.

It enables a safe atmosphere. And in a way, it also acts as a solution to the problem of pollution as well. Furthermore, such systems always cater to the need for a public space. It satiates the people's desire for a public space, where they can relax, engage in fun filled activities and so on. The presence of such a public space can even boost the economy in the particular area. Well, solving traffic problems to boosting the local economy. Doesn't sound bad, does it? But what must not be forgotten is that such a process should integrate itself to the rest of the city. It cannot be executed in isolation, as it would backfire, increasing the traffic by manifolds elsewhere.

Tailpiece: A Radio Jockey seemed to have a better solution to the aforementioned delay problem. To quote her, " If you face the problem of getting late due to traffic, try starting your journey well in advance!!"

Monday, May 25, 2009

Vyttila...The Junction of Chaos!

Vyttila is the largerst junction in Kerala. The traffic system roots in Vyttila. This junction is the central nervous system of Kochi. It is from here that you deviate to your destination. Be it towards the MG Road for shopping via Kadavantra or towards Edapally and beyond dashing through the national highway or enroute the palaces of kochi kingdom in Tripunithura or heading to the dead end of Fort Kochi via Kundanoor bye-pass, you have to inevitably touch Vytila.
It is of so commercial as well as strategic importance but it is sad to know that there is no proper bus stop towards the Tripunithura route from Vytilla. It is always so crowded at the place where the bus stops and buses stop wherever they want and that too near to the crossing. There should be a proper bus stop at Vytilla which should be atleast 100m away from the signal so that there wont be overcrowding of private buses.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Well, it seems a contradiction that the state with greatest number of literate citizens has so many people who are unable to read a small sign board. What else can possibly be the reason behind cars and rickshaws being parked under signs that say "No Parking" ??

Today I was walking along M.G. Road, for a stretch of maybe 1.5 kms. At the first No Parking sign, a car was parked right under it. It might as well have been an occasional thing, perhaps happening seldom. However, what I saw at the rest of the signs say a different story. Out of the five signs that I saw, almost all of them had vehicles parked under them. At one particular place, the sign is actually only a few meters away from a pay and park facility. In addition, to make things all the more difficult, the 1.5 km stretch that I walked, had cars parked through out, on both sides of M.G.Road. So much so, that the sides of the road look like parking areas.

Friday, March 6, 2009

This report consolidates the findings of the Reinventing Cochin team, as regards the pedestrian audits conducted in the city. It examines two main areas: South Eranakulam and M. G Road.


SOUTH ERANAKULAM

An area dominated by residential houses, shops, a High School and a railway station, it’s undoubtedly a busy vicinity. The bustops and the railway station contribute towards the bulk of the pedestrians who walk to and fro from the stations, use the public transport systems, flag autos and frequent the many shops around it. Thus, being an ideal place to audit, the stretch between Girls High School, Eranakulam and the South Bridge was chosen.

Beginning at the curb near the School, a clear disparity can be seen in the width of the footpath used by the pedestrians. Beginning with a comfortable width of 8.5 ft, it shrinks, mainly because of the presence of a transformer, to a mere 3.25 ft as per the rest of the area. Not only is the area very busy with heavy pedestrian flow, but the footpath before the school has been converted into a makeshift bustop inspite of an actual one existing mere meters away. Therefore, the pavements (or whatever is left of them) are agog with people waiting for the evening bus and venders soliciting them with delectables leaving little place for actual walking.

The actual bustops ahead are put to minimal use, with potential passengers crowding in other areas and thus lie unused and dirty. Mayhap because they take up considerable space, the Corporation has omitted to build pavements in these areas. As one goes forward, one sees, particularly near areas like the Kalyan Chambers, there exist no actual pavements, but mere wobbly concrete slabs over gutters, intercept with gaping holes in the place of the same. The same measure upto a mere 34.5 inches, when the IRA Standards prescribe a minimum of 1.5 meters.

Even more interesting is the second transformer comfortably roosting smack dab in the middle of the pavement near the Madakkapillil lane entrance. The area therefore lacks a pavement, is dirty and forces a pedestrian to take a detour, prompting a hasty motorist to collide with him or her.

Moving forward, past the opposite side of Sadhanam Working Women’s Hostel, down till Valanjambalam Temple, there are no actual pavements, but mere concrete slabs as mentioned before, this time measuring somewhere between 31 to 31.5 inches. A walk down few more meters leads us before Jose Electricals, where the slabs are a significant 9 inches longer, ending at 40 inches, quite a feat considering the surroundings.

Yet again, nearing the gate of the Temple, one sees yet another transformer, with a hole, 38 inches in width and over 100 inches in length, (so what if our pavements don’t conform to international standards? Something does!) like a moat around an ancient fort. This one takes the cup though. It’s dirtier than its predecessors and contributes to the sanctity of the temple with a tastefully situated and over flowing garbage bin. Thus, even if a modal pedestrian wanted to use the pavement, the stench would force him to walk on the road.

Past Valanjambalam’s first gate and on to its second, the distance between the two has no pavements what so ever and the unofficial bustop nearby causes bus drivers to occasionally flatten a hapless pedestrian against the temple wall railings. Maneuvering through here should rightly be an Olympic feat.

Just a glance at the bridge looming ahead will show you that though there are adequate spaces on either side, the Corporation has chosen not to mar the beauty of the place by building pavements. You see large plots of vacant land on either side, which often doubles as car parks and unofficial bustops. There is also gibberish splattering these areas, from clumps of dirt to piles of garbage.


M. G ROAD

A favorite youth hangout, a commercial area and a shopping hub, M. G Road is Cochin’s equalent of downtown New York. Scattered with shops, bakeries and eateries, it attracts more vehicular and pedestrian movement than perhaps any other area around. In shopping areas such as these, IRA recommends that width should be increased by 1 metre, which is treated as “dead width”. Where there are sidewalks around buildings and fences, the dead width can be taken as 0.5 metres. For areas of heavy pedestrian activity such as bus stops, railway stations and recreational areas, the width of sidewalks should be suitably increased to account for accumulation of pedestrians. A considerable difference from the earlier audit is experienced here. There are actual pavements! Red cobble stoned ones at that. The sad part is the landscaping that the shopkeepers around have chosen to employ. While there is often a clear, distinguishable and mostly unbroken pavement, there are some anomalies to the same.

From Joy Alukkas to Jose Alukkas, the pavements range from somewhere between 4.10 to 5 meters. There are minor interruptions here and there, such as the odd pole or railing or the annoying half built transformer, but at least there is adequate place for pedestrians who both wish to walk and who wish to gawk and window shop. Moving forward, the petrol pump adjacent to the UniverCel showroom has a huge area which allows for easy movements of vehicles and pedestrians but ends with an uphill climb before a huge, gaping, clogged and open outlet. It takes one a while to realize that the complicated system of pipes and taps nestled within, actually happens to be an integral part of the city’s water supply channels, though it does baffle one as to what its doing above ground or why it is not sealed. Thankfully, a slight wall around it saves the absent minded a dunk or a tumble.

Areas around Shenoy’s figure pavements 6 ft in length while Twinkle sports clearly broken ones, the same continuing a trend till K. B Varkey & V. S Builders. Jacobs DD Mall sports deplorable pavements, not because of the lack of space, but the lack of public spirit. These open spaces are used by food venders to set up temporary stalls as the evening arrives. Nearing Lens & Frames, the pavements widen, while the area between Woodlands till the opposite side of My Kingdom have pavements 34 inches long. Certain areas that have footpaths have the same opened and a pile of dirt from within, deposited on the sidewalks. Josco Jwellers are a testament to the landscaping skills of shopkeepers. Here, the public pavements have clearly been encroached by them by making way for a car park for their customers.

The opposite side of M. G Road, sporting shops such as Punjabi Libas is clearly the very same situation, though the width of the pavement is slightly lesser than that on the other side. The entire situation of M. G Road pavements is that it’s slightly more encouraging a scenario than other downtown areas. The pavements are in a relatively better condition, except for an occasional break. Its maintenance however, is attributed more to the shopkeeper’s commercial sense kicking in than the Corporation’s sense of duty. The singularly major complaint that one would register is that the pavements are not of even length and decrease and increase according to the shop it houses. And certain cases see a shopper surreptitiously increase his shop size by encroaching the pavements, but this is not always the case.


CONCLUSION

Missing sidewalks or gaps, abrupt changes in sidewalk width, obstructions on sidewalks, and frequent, abrupt changes in direction are all seen as signs of a faulty walkway. These standards, most pavements in Cochin, nay Kerala conform to. Reinventing Cochin Team firmly believes that this is one infrastructure that is in dire need of revamping. It is to make a mockery of ourselves to let the Corporation delude us into thinking that pavements are unimportant. We have people campaigning to make pavements and streets disabled-people friendly. When it is hardy safe for an able man to cross, one shudders to think of the plight of our less fortunate brethren. Besides which, we believe a good makeover can contribute towards the scenic beauty of the city making it a more attractive and lucrative place for tourism, industrial activity, and commerce etc.