Friday, February 16, 2007

Lalbagh celebrates sesquicentennial year

Lalbagh celebrates sesquicentennial year
This famous landmark in the city has a host of plans as part of its 150th year celebrations.
The TImes of India

For those who have lived in the city long enough, Bangalore is a city that's synonymous with gardens and fresh air. It's a city that has a laid-back charm to it. Thanks to its altitude, which is 920 meters above sea-level, it's blessed with a climate that's moderately cool throughout the year. You can feel the nip in the air the minute you enter Bangalore city from anywhere else in the world - such is its charm.
Over the years, though, the city has undergone a major transformation. From Garden City and Pensioner's Paradise to Pub City, and it is now popular as an IT hub. If there's one place that takes us back to the Bangalore of yore, it's the beautiful Lalbagh, a treasure house of exotic plants spread across a sprawling 240 acres. It provides the much-needed lung space to this fast-expanding city. It's celebration time this year for Lalbagh, as it has completed 150 years.
Celebrating 150 years
A host of programmes have been planned to mark the occasion. There are plans to introduce 150 new varieties of plants to commemorate the year, according to Dr G K Vasanthakumar, Director of Horticulture. Technical experts would be involved in the selection of these species. "We want to form a Botanical Garden Consortium that would help in screening and selecting plants before they are put up before the panel," he says. The programme is expected to be completed by January next year.
A souvenir and a CD will be released at the end of the year, depicting the history of Lalbagh and those who have contributed to it. The Japanese Garden will also be renovated, something that has not been done for over 40 years. The estimated cost is Rs 35 lakhs.
The Krumbigal Hall will be demolished and reconstructed at a cost of Rs 3-4 lakhs. There are also plans to make Lalbagh a plastic-free zone. The idea is to have volunteers at the entrance gates to create awareness and educate visitors to the garden to keep it plastic-free. "Doing away with hawkers and having food courts is not a solution at all, instead it would be a better option to train hawkers, give them ID cards and streamline things so that the visitors get access to food at different points at reasonable rates," says Vasanthkumar who says there's also a human element to it, as Lalbagh is a second home to many people who have been coming to Lalbagh from Siddapura and adjoining areas since ages. Lalbagh attracts over 5,000 walkers everyday and over 8,000 tourists during weekends.
There are 50 tree wardens who are involved in protecting trees and maintaining them here. There are plans to have another 100 such tree wardens from among nature lovers. The authorities are planning to involve school children for voluntary work. The plan is to introduce them to nature, create awareness and involve them in cleaning and maintenance of the garden during their school visits.
There is a huge area behind the Kempegowda Rock that's not developed. There are plans to form an adventure camp or a nature club here, without cutting off any existing trees or canopy. "There's no point in cutting and trimming everything for a clean look. There are some dry trees that attract birds like the green barbets which depend only on old trees," explains Vasanthakumar. Lalbagh's website ( will be made more interactive with message and bulletin boards, before the end of the year.
Treasure trove of plants
Lalbagh houses a rich variety of native and exotic flora. There are over 1,876 plant species in Lalbagh. The century palms, which bloom once in 100 years is a major crowdpuller here. Ficus Krishnae, named after Lord Krishna, is another popular tree species. The flame tree or Butea frondosa is a tree that turns scarlet red and looks like a flame from a distance. The silk cotton tree, which is more than 200 years old, can be found at the West Gate. The Rudraksha tree is also a crowd-puller in March. Apart from these, there are many plants and trees of medicinal importance. "Birds flock around ficus trees and at particular times or stages of flowering of certain trees, butterflies appear from nowhere, sometimes thousands of them all at once", says Vasanthakumar.
With the formation of Greater Bangalore and satellite townships, Vasanthakumar feels we need to have more green islands in the city for relaxation during weekends. Few would relish the idea of driving through traffic to reach Lalbagh from far flung areas of the city.


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