Sunday, May 20, 2007

Staying green

Staying green
Gulnaar Mirza Khan

Awilting garden slowly coming back to life. It’s on the crest of the IT-BT wave, yet fully conscious that it should fight for its little lung spaces. The juggernaut of development mowed down the city’s green spirit. How green was my city, sighed the Bangalorean. Builders showed off their engineering skills, and lack of eco-sensibilities. The authorities just didn’t care. Till now.
Avid gardener Priya Mascarenhas says, “The good news is that people are now realising the importance of greenery. Development has taken its toll, but the average citizen still loves trees. Look at the little gardens in the homes, even on footpaths.”
A wag pointed out that ours is a ‘Garbage City’. But architects and builders are now slowly bringing about a green revolution. “There is hope,” says architect K Jaisim, adding, “The city definitely has the potential to be a Garden City again. People are eco-conscious — eight out of ten clients insist on greenery. It can be brought about by a little sensitivity by everyone, in every neighbourhood.”
To change the city is ambitious, but he thinks we should stop depending only on the authorities. “Architects and landscape artists, Bangalore’s professional citizens, should be responsibile for bringing about some change. Our city has only town planners, not urban designers. We don’t even have an urban design course for young people,” he rues.
Ordinary citizens too realise that the city cannot bank on Cubbon Park and Lalbagh alone. Many residents’ associations have created beautiful little parks in neighbourhoods like Richards Town, Jayanagar and Indiranagar. Greenthumbs are active too, for, in every home, there is a patch of green or at least a few stray pots. Even apartments sport creepers and shrubbery.
Corporates are also chipping in. IT firms want a green, serene atmosphere on campus. A veteran is Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which bags awards at every flower show. The company maintains many parks around the airport. A few are open to the public, while others are acres of teakwood, silver oak and bamboo plantations.
The horticulture department is going all out to educate the masses. It holds radio talks and even conducts gardening classes at Lalbagh. Says Vasant Kumar, chairman, Mysore Horticulture Society, “We have awareness meets in every locality. With the help of NGOs, residents are given information, both technical and practical, on how to maintain terrace, rooftop, kitchen gardens, on herbs, shrubs and trees.”
The department maintains Lalbagh, Cubbon Park and other parks. “Residents should adopt parks. As traffic and pollution is taking a toll on the city, nobody should cut down trees,” he says. Priya Mascarenhas says, “Old Bangaloreans can remember when their city had jacarandas, gulmohars and many shady trees. Though we cannot stop development, nobody should be allowed to cut down trees. We should plant now for the next generation because trees take a long time to grow.”Through small beginnings we can build a sturdy future, an oxygen mask for a gasping city. Tree treasure: Think of Garden City, and Lalbagh comes to mind. Started by Hyder Ali on 40 acres of land as a private garden, it was nurtured by the British, and owes much to people like Sir Mark Cubbon, John Cameron, Krumbeigal and M H Marigowda. Today’s horticulturists are not letting them down. Conservation of plants, technical maintenance and development have retained the lushness of its 240 acres. Lalbagh’s plant wealth is immense — from homely plants to exotic foreign species of ornamental and environmental value. Training courses on fruit and vegetable processing, mushroom cultivation, ornamental gardening and horticulture are offered to the public.


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