Friday, October 23, 2009

Your lung space is going from under your nose

Your lung space is going from under your nose

Horticulture dept sleeps over pwd's commercial drive in cubbon park

PK Surendran. Bangalore



Those with commercial interests are eating into the city's lung spaces. But the horticulture department, the guardian of these spaces, remains in the dark.
Here's one to begin with. Thumbing the nose at the Karnataka Government Park (preservation) Act, 1975, and several government orders forbidding the use of Cubbon Park for anything other than horticulture purpose, the Public Works Department (PWD) has been filing applications with the high court for various construction purposes.
India-International Law, a law firm fighting for over a decade for the protection of Cubbon Park on behalf of Bimal Desai, an entrepreneur-environmentalist, says government departments, other than the horticulture department, have been representing the park in their plea seeking a judicial nod for allotting more park land for non-park purposes. "This is ominous," says the law firm's advocate MG Kumar.
To be sure, the horticulture department has no information on new pleas for more Cubbon Park land. "There are no pending cases to our knowledge on seeking more land by other government departments within Cubbon Park for non-park development," says horticulture department deputy director M Jagadeesh. Meanwhile, Bimal Desai told DNA on Wednesday he would soon challenge the allotment of land for Namma Metro from Lalbagh Botanical Garden in the Supreme Court.
He said, so far, it was only Cubbon Park that was under constant attack, but it is happening to Lalbagh too.
NGOs and protesters fighting for the premier parks contend that Metro's claim of Lalbagh and Cubbon Park is no ordinary "development versus environment" tussle, but violates the very sanctimony of the law that protects public property.
Leo Saldhana, convenor of Environment Support Group, which has been fighting against apportioning of the two parks, says: "It's significant that the Lalbagh portion for the Metro project was acquired under Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board Act and is sold at commercial rates. The Metro is a commercial venture aided by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation; it is mentioned in the detailed project report that all property of the project is deemed as collateral security for winning finance for the project, points out Saldhana.
"The project's cost escalation is a straw in the wind," he says.
Says ESG's lawyer Sunil Dutt Yadav, "Once the precedent is set, soon the remaining parks will also be bartered by the powers-that-be."

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