September 12, 2008

Whose job is it anyway?

Is it my job to react when I see a vandalised avenue tree?
I have and I am wondering how far I can go on this.
My response follows what we have been doing at our community newspapers for some years now.
Covering civic issues and community-elected leaders a bit closely.
We have reported on the last two civic body elections.
We have wriggled our way into the counting centre to report firsthand on the atmosphere and the process and told the story of violence and ballot tampering at this level.
The reportage may not have made a huge impact.
But it has not stopped us from keeping the focus.
When our resources allow for it, we sit on the fringe of the meetings of our ward councillors and put out details of the projects they propose for you and me.
Some people may wonder if we are wasting costly newsprint on such coverage.
I don't think so.
Besides providing vital information, such reportage provides the more responsible amongst us to take a closer look at the proposals, engage with the councillors or officers and ensure that the best is provided for the community.
There have been occasions when letters in the media and pointed questions raised by the people have got our local leaders to make changes for the better. But these, I must admit, are few and far between.
So when I found that an avenue in my neighbourhood was to be widened as so may others were being proposed, I took a closer look at what the officers had in mind for our community.
And found that the men and women who did the hard work had dug up parts of the roots of almost all the old avenue trees that gave the road some character, lots of shade and greenery.
I called up the Corporation's zonal officer. This man sticks to his job and is at it. But you can never get access to him. His cellphone has a melodious spiritual song and the voice box overflows.
So, I send a letter to him, suggesting ways in which we should protect these trees.
But I don't hear from him.
So I courier a letter to the Commissioner, an SOS.
For a week now, the entire work on this road has come to a standstill.
Not because of my letter surely.
And I wonder if the Big Boss would have asked his officers to show some concern for the trees.
Meanwhile, I get an environmental activist to examine the trees and suggest the simplest way to allow aeration even as the road is relaid / expanded. I share it with the Corporation zonal office.
I don't hear from there.
Am I feeling dejected? Defeated?
I only wish ten others also played their roles in the community.

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