Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lalbagh Garden in fine shape

Lalbagh Garden in fine shape

As the place, a noted tourist spot in South Asia, is preparing for another flower show next month, Odeal D'Souza does a reality check on how it is maintained and the facilities available there for visitors

Odeal D'Souza

A critic's roving camera will begin the tour of Lalbagh Botanical Garden with a close up on plastic bags and cups lying on the ground amid many empty dustbins. It reveals the utter lack of civic sense of the visitors to the garden which is, however, well-maintained by the horticulture department. Every morning, they get the place cleaned up by a 30-member team.
A tractor, tempo, and two-wheeler collect the bio-waste. While plastic bags, bottles, and cups are transported to the dump yards located in the city's outskirts, bio-waste is put into the compound pit. The sorting station located at the garden's south gate segregates glass and plastic sachets.
Saahas, an NGO, helps in keeping the garden clean.
There are 85 gardeners for the upkeep of the garden. They are regular workers and get about Rs7,000 to Rs8,000 according to government norms.
The authorities are aware of several acts of indiscipline happening in the garden and are taking steps to make the visitors behave.
"For this, we have brought in at least 60 personnel as security guards. They will move around the park and warn the errant visitors. Boards will also be put up to guide them on the dos and don'ts while using the park. This is a process of educating them that will go on for a month" said M Jagadeesh, deputy director for horticulture.
"If visitors still keep violating the garden rules, security guards will slap a fine of Rs100 to Rs500. And if visitors misuse the garden by indulging in obscene activities, they will be booked under the Immoral Trafficking Act," he said.
Welcome changes have happened after the new director of horticulture N Jayaram took charge.
One such was the removal of many pestering hawkers. "This was done with the help of police officials. Now joggers and visitors like the park as it is free of these elements," he said.
About 32 new stone benches have been built for the convenience of visitors. To keep the park litter-free, 80 more dustbins have been fixed in various points.
One hundred daily walkers have been selected as tree wardens. They will keep a watch on the trees and report to the authorities if anything goes amiss.
Responding to repeated complaints from the visitors, the authorities are planning to construct additional toilets. Now the garden has only three such facility. Considering the number of visitors, they are too few.
For visitors who are thirsty, more facilities are being planned for the supply of safe drinking water.
A 4-km track will be built for joggers from Siddhapura to the main gate. Landscaping will be done around the glass house.
"We want to set up CCTV cameras and metal detectors along with traffic detectors at all the three entrances to monitor the visitors. Some of them enter the garden without even buying tickets. The cameras will help us in catching them. We are also planning a proper food court for the visitors," said Jagdeesh.
Despite the existing facilities, visitors are not satisfied. They want more.
"I wish the authorities open a salad bar," said a frequent visitor who did not want to be identified.
"There should be activities for children in the garden. In this green setting, they should get an opportunity to learn about environment and expand their creativity by indulging in vegetable carving or making flower arrangements," said Vikrath M, another frequent visitor.
"But this is a botanical garden and not an activity centre. So we cannot have activities for children," said N Jayaram, director for horticulture.
"There should be maps at the entrances to the garden so that we will not get lost," said Lobtsang G, a tourist from Burma.
Every day, about 6,000 to 8,000 people visit the garden. On weekends or festival days, their number will be about 10,000 to 15,000. During flower shows, about 75,000 people come here every day.
But there is no book for visitors to register their impressions about the place. Children above 12 years of age have to buy tickets for entry. But entry is free for joggers and visiting officials.


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