Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lalbagh is spick-and-span, only for a day

Lalbagh is spick-and-span, only for a day

Experts say only sustained efforts, and not day-long campaigns, will rid the park of litter

Bosky Khanna. Bangalore

Thousands of visitors take in the beauty and fragrance while walking up the garden path at Lalbagh, but fail to smell the hazards posed by plastics and other wastes they litter.
On Republic Day, Saahas, an NGO, with the help of volunteers from the IT sector in the city, undertook a day-long campaign to make the garden litter-and-plastic-free. The volunteers, divided into four batches of about 50 people each, collected plastic bags from visitors at the flower show and sold cloth bags to them.
According to the horticulture department, over 10kg of plastic waste, including packets and bottles, is collected from Lalbagh every day. On weekends, it is as much as 50kg.
"We requested people at the gates to hand over plastic bags and use the cloth bags instead," Jitendra BV, an IT professional and a volunteer with Saahas, said. "In five hours, 400 plastic bags were collected at each gate. Garbage littered in the garden was also picked up," he said.
Nandana P Rao, another IT professional, said she was surprised by the people's apathy to the problem. "Some were keen to know about the hazards of plastic and shift to cloth bag, but many were not even ready to listen," she said. "The cost of a cloth bag was reduced from Rs30 to Rs20 to encourage people to buy it, but there were not many takers. In three hours, only 40 bags were sold."
Wilma Rodrigues from Saahas said the NGO's initiative was three years old. "It is important for people to realise the hazards posed by litter and plastic."
Experts, however, pointed out that a mere day-long effort was not sufficient to make the garden free of plastic and litter. Many initiatives in the past by NGOs, corporates, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and the civil defence have not yielded much due to the lack of a consolidated and sustained effort. A long-term plan was the need of the hour and anti-plastic measures should be implemented strictly, they said.
"In Ooty, a hefty penalty was imposed on those littering plastic," honorary wildlife warden Harish R Bhat said. "The entire town was thus made plastic-free. If a town can be made plastic-free, a 239.5-acre park can also be made so," he said. "There are many private companies in Bangalore. They can be made part of a sustained effort by encouraging them to advertise themselves on paper and cloth bags, which can then be sold or distributed to visitors. This can be done at the various ticket counters in the garden," Bhat said.
At the Bannerghatta Biological Park, the ban on plastic is enforced strictly. Visitors were not allowed to carry even packets of chips inside, Bhat said. "The same can be adopted at Lalbagh as well."
Lalbagh officials said plastic and litter were not a major worry. "There is no need to impose a fine on those dropping plastic in the garden," Lalbagh horticulture department director N Jairam said.


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