Thursday, April 22, 2004

The sorry state of Lalbagh

Dropping in on a surprise visit after a sumptuous breakfast at MTR, one fine morning last October, Chief Minister S M Krishna was aghast at the condition of Bangalore's famed Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. The Horticultural Ministry which oversees the upkeep of Lalbagh was sufficiently chastised and the Bangalore Development Authority was roped in to overhaul the gardens, spread over 240 acres, under the direct supervision of its dynamic chief Jayakar Jerome. The BDA quickly got down to work and restored the Lalbagh Glass House in time for the Republic Day Flower Show. Right now the BDA is busy reviving the lake which had all but disappeared under a thick carpet of hyacinth thriving on sewage flowing in uncontrolled into the lake. The sewage treatment plant which has come up where the nursery stood near the Ashoka Pillar end was commissioned only two days ago. I paid a visit to Lalbagh after two years the same morning. It resembles a huge mix of a construction site and a garbage dump. There are no signboards to indicate that the garden is under renovation. There are piles of trash everywhere. Atleast the parts immediately around the Glass House were well maintained before the BDA marched in. Now even those parts have fallen on bad times. Lawns are either overgrown or dried up. Much of the submerged pond on the right side when one enters from the Siddapura gate has been filled and raised. Wonder what the BDA has in mind. The submerged pond with lotuses and lilies could have been cleaned up as such. Long trenches have been dug up all across the garden making one wonder if its being wired up with OFC. A huge dredging machine is in the process of cleaning up the lake. Several tenements housing the workers involved in the revival have sprung up at several places in the garden. In the Glass House itself, its only the roof that has glass now, the walls have been stripped off the glass slab and left open. As if that wasn't enough, ugly stone plaques recording the "contribution" of everyone from S M Krishna and his acolytes to Jayakar Jerome and Nandan Nilekani have sprung up on four sides of the glass house. In an unhealthy sign, huge amounts of concrete are being added to the garden while there is little sign of any saplings having been planted. There are no trash cans in sight. Several rest rooms with huge Sintex tanks on top are coming up all over the garden. Wish the BDA would be a little transparent and share with the public what it has in mind for this 300 year old garden.


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