Thursday, October 29, 2009



How can we safeguard our parks? How can we influence the administration to ensure that these enclaves are preserved for future generations as well? DNA's Bosky Khanna answers these FAQs

Bosky Khanna

Open your eyes, and look around you. It's difficult to find open spaces easily in our city, which once proudly boasted of being the Garden City of India.
What we need are parks for people to move about, relax, and take deep breaths of fresh air at leisure. Unfortunately, our city is gradually offering lesser and lesser of it.
The hope lies in having at least 15 per cent of each layout as park area, which the town planning rules state as optimal space for residents in their respective localities.
The Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) 2015 also states that at least one-third of Bangalore should be green, not necessarily parks.
Parks are different from greenery, mere open spaces and fancy lawns. But these spaces are often confused with parks.
A park must have natural aesthetic value, and should provide eco-elements to generate good breathable air with the ability to trap suspended particulate matter and release quality oxygen. There should be adequate space for people to walk around. The flora in a park should be a combination of climbers, creepers, shrubs, herbs, trees and grass—not mere lawns. They have the capability to generate fresh air (good-quality moisture, oxygen, and air that is free from suspended particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Water bodies may also be developed within them.
That's why, while the Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain and Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium areas can be designated as parks, Race Course and Golf Course are not; they are lawns, though they are lung spaces too.
A Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) official points out that as per the Comprehensive Development Plan, of Bangalore's total area of 1,219.5 sq km, 90.69 sq km should be maintained as parks and open spaces.
But that is not being done in face of an increasing demand for vacant spaces for residential and commercial buildings.
Though there is still hope and time, Vanamitra volunteer Harsha M feels that the way things are going, only 100 parks would remain in Bangalore. Therefore, a lot more needs to be done.
"Trees are the pillars of Bangalore. But today, they have become advertisement boards in parks and are infected with mushroom and disease. Mushroom seeds are in the air, and they enter trees through pores and scratches and gradually kill them," he says.
Noted environmentalist and retired forest official AN Yellappa Reddy says: "It is not that there are no rules, but there is no inclination. The officials admit that there is a dearth of funds and staff to maintain parks. As a result, low-cost maintenance solutions have been incorporated, which have led to degradation of most of the existing parks in Bangalore. Pesticides, insecticides and low-quality fertilizers are being used," says Reddy. "What we need is expertise and imagination. They should be sensitive towards the needs of a green belt and plant hardy tree species in the parks to increase biodiversity. The city needs more tree parks rather than mere lawns which consume a lot of water, and pollute underground water and air," he adds.
Only five per cent of the existing parks are in good shape in HSR Layout, Banashankari, and Basavanagudi-Jayanagar (the Laxman Rao Park is losing out to Metro work). Sadashivanagar Park and Sankey Park, in Bangalore West, are also ideal examples of citizens' initiatives to rejuvenate parks.
According to retired forest official SG Neginhal (he's the man who planted 15 lakh tree saplings along city roadsides to make Bangalore green), the old gardens-and-parks culture cannot be got back in totality.
With land prices soaring, maximum amount of space is being utilised for meeting basic needs like parking, he feels.
Says Neginhal: "Inadequate planning is the root cause for the loss of green cover and poor maintenance of parks. It is sad to see the plants which I planted being cut in front of my eyes for widening roads, constructing offices and houses. We have already lost many lakes. The government should at least maintain parks for children and senior citizens."
He suggests: "At least one-third of each layout's area should be maintained as parks. This is the only way to restore lost greenery. But it all depends upon the administration and the will of the people. Instead of being merely emotional, people should come out with practical solutions to urge the government to create and maintain existing ones, as in the case of Freedom Park and Race Course. In today's world, money is money plant for bureaucrats and politicians."
Fortunately, Bangalore already has existing parks in several localities. Only that these need to be upgraded and maintained with citizens' will.
Several resident welfare associations have already shown the way by rejuvenating parks, and these have set examples for the rest.
Says Neginhal: "With the willingness of MLAs and MPs healthy parks can be created in wards and spaces the members represent; if it works, 20 years from now, Bangalore will certainly be greener than today."
In Banashankari, for instance, a few parks are being maintained by some private organisations. They are designated parks for people to walk, and for children to play.
According to BBMP joint director (horticulture), A Narayanaswamy, there are 916 open spaces in our city, of which 644 are parks of all sizes, excluding water bodies. These are well maintained and utilised by people. Apart from this, the BBMP is developing 21 parks across the city.
"There is no problem in creating and maintaining parks as funds are available," says Narayanaswamy. If anything, that should make more parks available for Bangalore—at least in intent.


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