Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It seems so easy to park your litter here

It seems so easy to park your litter here

Staff Reporter
Why are Garden City’s lung spaces full of garbage and debris by the end of the day?
— Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

What a mess: Despite public awareness initiatives and cleanup drives, garbage is strewn in parks in Bangalore.
BANGALORE: By sunset every day, the so-called plastic-free zone around the Kempe Gowda Tower is swamped with plastic packets and bottles. Litter cops in Lalbagh have been collecting no less than Rs. 10,000 in monthly fines ever since the latest clean-up drive was initiated six months ago.

Things are much worse at the centrally-located Cubbon Park. Unlike Lalbagh, it is impossible to regulate littering considering High Court Complex, Bal Bhavan and a central public library are located inside the park, says K.G. Jayadev, Deputy Director of the park. In a city, which prides itself on its “Garden City” tag, why is it so difficult to maintain its lung spaces, despite several public awareness initiatives and cleanup drives?

Perhaps, the sheer size of these lung spaces makes it a difficult proposition. However, scores of smaller parks, maintained by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), lie in a similar state of neglect. Officials from the Pollution Control Board say that complaints about poorly maintained parks revolve around two issues: dumping of garbage or debris, and negligence on the part of maintenance workers.

The BBMP is responsible for maintaining nearly 550 parks in the city, and the funds earmarked for development of horticulture (which includes parks) has doubled this year. While many of these have little or no maintenance work happening, several others are being maintained by private players.

Entry restricted
Consider this. The Richmond Town Park, with well-pruned foliage and grass lawns, looks picture perfect. However, a placard at the gate announced that entry is restricted to only a couple of hours a day: it is open to public between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. every day. The park, like several others in the city, is being maintained by a private group, which owns a few buildings in the area.

Rohan D’Souza, a researcher with ATREE, points out that while this model is convenient for the civic body, it often renders the space “exclusive”. “Restricting access to parks is not an acceptable trade-off. People who question this are told that the park is shut down to carry out maintenance activities, which is an excuse to ward-off ‘unwanted elements’ and keep it exclusive for a certain section,” Mr. D’Souza points out.

Savitha Swamy, who is working on a thesis on parks in Bangalore, finds that parks maintained by Resident Welfare Associations did better. “People lack a sense of ownership, and this attitude can only change when residential communities are involved in the maintenance,” she says.

For instance, the park located in Kumara Park-West is maintained by the Residents’ Welfare Association. The RWA has not only built toilets but also made provision for a musical fountain. N.S. Ramakanth, president of the RWA, feels that parks are community spaces which must be nurtured.

This model, as community-based as it is, also runs the risk of promoting “exclusivity”. Mr. D’Souza points out that such parks often have guards who turn away people who do not conform to a certain construct of “respectability”. “Indirectly, it becomes a class issue. When the timings are restricted to morning and evening hours, the message is clear: park users can only be residents of the area,” he points out.


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