The Hillcrest Syndrome

By Dr Rajagopal Soondron

Any visitor to the Hillcrest Avenue, Quatre Bornes, which is situated in a nice residential area, may wonder about the eyesore meeting his eyes: why that double lane road has its surroundings so neglected. He would notice how the newly created roundabout and the middle grassy lane have succumbed to tall weeds and shrubs. He may not know that this double way, gifted with a very pleasant wide bricked footpath, and its south bound Tulips Avenue were modernized about five years ago under the aegis of the outgoing Labour Party government.

However, LP is now in the opposition. So the theory is that the present municipal board is somehow failing to keep the standard; after all the tacit assumption is that the local residents had voted against the winning majority political party. Are they being penalized? Preposterous, some would say.

Our mentality

Could this reflect the mentality of our politicians? If they had statesman-like vision they would have been thinking of the next generation, but being of lower mettle they look no further than the next election.

On the other hand, the roads in front of Jumbo Phoenix leading to Vacoas and Floreal have been enlarged a long time back to cater to increasing traffic. By mere and strange coincidence our prime ministers live in that region – so to smooth out their drive home in the afternoon their drivers capitalize on that fortunate and timely road development, courtesy some higher authorities.

All of which would make the inhabitants of Beau Bassin and Rose Hill ponder wishfully. For decades they have prayed with a ‘la bougie rouge’ that one of their élus be a prime minister. This would have ensured the building of the bridge over the ravine from Chebel to M1 at Soreze in the 1970s itself. The poor citizens living the daily nightmare of going to the Capital via Coromandel or Reduit have been waiting for 50 years to see their dream come true.

The people’s responsibility

How elated we are to have a go at our politicians’ bias; unfortunately they are not the only guilty ones in the matter. By municipal decree, the landowners, on getting their building permit, were told that they would have to leave a strip of land of three to four feet between their wall and the road or the footpath. So on Hillcrest Avenue many landlords care for that strip of land sandwiched between their compound walls and the footpath with flowers and well-trimmed small shrubs. Some landowners even go so far as to care for the abandoned strip opposite their own house where there are no buildings yet.

But not everyone is so mindful of the environment. Some feel that that reserved strip of land comes under the responsibility of the municipality. Hence they could not care less how that part in front of their very house is being kept. The municipality may say that it has no fund to cater for lawn or flowers on that land.

As to the bricked footpath it also is being invaded by ‘chiendent’ weed, while some unoccupied plots of land and even a sugarcane field are still left in a wild state with all sorts of plants, creeper weeds, grass and shrubs spilling over onto the footpath. Worse, either the CWA or the Telecom have to dig into that footpath to supply their services to landlords. After works are carried out, the bricks are left in a pitiable condition – often with small potholes that will soon be hidden by grass and act as a trap for pedestrians.

The question is: whose responsibility is it to maintain that region in Sodnac? Is it the municipality’s or the Road Development Authority’s or the land owners nearby?

Well, that is the Hillcrest syndrome: someone is passing the buck to someone else. And that’s where the elected members of our city or town must prove their worth – they must deliver for the monthly pay that goes into their bank account, and stop playing the ostrich.

When in power one political party would have a “malin plaisir” in penalizing that part of the city which had voted for the opponents in the last general election. But if democracy is ‘of the people’, our elected politicians must start raising their mental standard – to work for the nation and for all the people without bias – even if the latter have voted for the opponents. They must realize that the very democracy that propels them to power needs opponents to flourish and progress.

And the people? Legally and morally they may not be responsible for that land outside their wall – but there is something called civic sense. It’s the city – it’s the common good – it must be taken care of. All scientific papers point out that the more beauty, the more smiles we have around – the greater is the sense of happiness of the population.

And what to say of those landlords who believe that it’s their right to park their cars right on the footpath, thus depriving pedestrians or joggers the privilege of using it? Every day the latter have to go down on the road for a detour during their daily exercise – while some car drivers are happily racing along, on the Hillcrest avenue, thinking that they are on a runaway. Our Road Traffic Authority agents could mint money if they are around with their Doppler camera.

The carelessness that is slowly permeating the people’s mentality is the very same that is also tainting that of our politicians; both belong to the same species after all. Our mindset translates also into their mindset.

But there is another possible reason for the neglect of the Hillcrest region; the RDA, it is said, has a plan to have an ‘auto-pont’ coming from Port Louis M1 to swerve west into Hillcrest Avenue; so why waste time and money to beautify that road if there will be imminent works soon? Well, if this ‘auto-pont’ is really in the pipeline, then let us humbly remind the concerned authorities that the inhabitants of the south end of Tulips Avenue would have to be thought of when the design of the new project is drawn up – lest their cars experience great difficulty to cross Hillcrest Avenue for the highway.

Whom to blame?

We can’t blame our politicians for all things that go wrong. There was the loss of points on our drivers’ licences for reckless driving five years ago, instituted by the LP government. But the people protested because it caused them a lot of stress! So the opposition capitalized on the people’s demand, promising to scrap off that ‘nuisance’ once in power — which they did. It was a vote catching strategy; but soon it was discovered with dismay that the number of deaths on our roads kept increasing again – about 150 families would be weeping for their dead every year. Let’s blame the people – or some of them – and some of the politicians for their lack of vision and pragmatism.

When the idea of a flyover at Phoenix M1 was floated publicly, some of us amateurs sat down and drew a tentative plan of how that flyover should be. It was a complicated one, for it had to cater for traffic from the South, Phoenix, Vacoas, Flic-en-Flac going to Port Louis and back, while other traffic would l emerge from Sodnac and Petit Camp. And as that traffic would commute from one point to the other, those highways and flyovers, without roundabouts, would really have to be sophisticated and would demand huge investment. Now we discover that the RDA plan includes yet again a few roundabouts below the future flyover. In a decade or two will the headache of the present traffic jam emerge again at Phoenix? Only time will tell — unless by then flying motorbikes become the norm.

One appreciates the plan to have our Metro express on pillars at the main central crossroads in Rose Hill, but we may wonder why the same strategy was not adopted in the centre of Beau Bassin, to prevent penalizing its inhabitants yet again. Maybe the experts know best.

Five years ago there was a rush to complete the wonderful Verdun road; this time there’s a similar enthusiasm to finish the Metro Express line between Rose Hill and Port Louis before the next general election. God forbid that we have similar disappointments and frustration!

* Published in print edition on 22 March 2019

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