Saturday, June 26, 2010

City’s first eco park in danger

City’s first eco park in danger
Politicians and BBMP officials are out to destroy a garden with over 102 medicinal plant species that a doctor took 30 years to develop

Greedy politicians are eyeing Bangalore’s first eco park, developed selflessly by a doctor. Dr Lalithamma toiled for 30 years to convert a hillock, till then used as a dump yard, into an eco park.
Over 102 medicinal plant species thrive in the park, which offers forest-like lushness in the midst of Padmanabhanagar’s concrete jungle.
That picture could change, as politicians have drawn up plans to turn it into a “hi-tech park”! With her ‘baby’ all set to lose its sheen, Dr Lalithamma (formerly of Nimhans) is making desperate attempts to ensure that the bulldozers do not roll in.
“I know this land does not belong to me or my family, and I am not interested in staking any claim over it. But we have nurtured over 600 medicinal plants and a daily walk here helps prevent diseases and boost immunity. Let us not disturb it,” she said.
Incidentally, this is the only planned eco park in the city; much before the concept of eco parks began to catch on after the 2005 Oaxaca Declaration on Biodiversity in France.
But about two months ago, area corporator Srinivas approached Lalithamma asking her for a no-objection letter to convert the eco-park into a hitech park. “He came with some BBMP officials and asked me if I had any problem with development of the park. I told them if they were going to develop it on the lines of an eco park, I had no problems,” Lalithamma said.
Lalithamma had made a fivefoot compound wall with stones and a barbed wire fencing. “We had done this to prevent people from sitting on it and roadside food vendors from spilling their left-overs here. Within a week of visiting me, officials bulldozed all that and started putting up some fancy fencing,” she said.
Not only have BBMP officials built a new compound wall, they have also destroyed over 50 plants which used be on the circumference of the park.
“They were all growing plants and I used to water them once in two days. Jasmine, tulsi, palash, neem, teak, custard apple, vinka rosea (used for diabetes), ixora (used for skin allergies) were all chopped mercilessly,” she said.
BBMP officials plan to chop fully grown plants and instal fancy lights and fencing.
“The eco park may not have swanky looks. But it can give as much oxygen as 20 regular parks. Now they plan to chop off fully grown trees and plant flowering shrubs in their place.” Lalithamma said.
“This space was barren, but a temple was already there on the hillock. My family gave funds to develop the temple and I took the initiative to develop the park. It is not my land, but I adopted it to develop it,” Lalithamma explained.
The hillock has been earmarked for development of a park. Lalithamma took permission from the then corporator and adopted it.”It was called Devara Gudda and we renamed it Srigiri. The place was filled with thorny plants and weeds. We planted all the other plants here,” she said.
The plants release aromas and provide a healing effect for neurological and respiratory problems. “The micro hairs under leaves of plants trap toxins and release clean air for people to breathe. Can these fancy shrubs do that? Show me one such park in the city,” she said.
To develop the eco park, Lalithamma has spent all her salary and savings. “Thirty years ago, when I earned enough, we ordered 3,000 lorries of red soil to develop this park. The result is there for you to see,” she said.
She earns just enough to pay the workers at the park and the priest of the temple. “I get a pension of Rs 20,000. I have some savings. I don’t have a house of my own or a car. I live for this park,” she said and smiled.
When contacted, the BBMP maintained they are developing the park at the behest of local residents. “Many of the residents wanted it to be a hi-tech park with tiled pavements and designer lighting, we are just working it,” an official said.
But Dr Lalithamma counters: “Why should taxpayers’ money be wasted on a park that is naturally grown and meticulously planned?”
Over 1,200 feet of Tinospora Cordifolia or Amrutha balli, was chopped off while the fence of the eco-park was being demolished.This creeper is said to be good for those with cardiac problems and diabetes. During the swine flu scare last year, many people ate the leaves of this creeper to keep the flu away. It is known to have medicinal qualities which can cure common flu and fever.


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