Saturday, July 03, 2010



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With work for the proposed War Memorial on hold and the Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain Park an unsightly gash that needs repairing, the focus must shift to other parks that are truly at risk, as Amit S.

Upadhye asks the question — when and how can we ensure that the Parks Preservation Act is not violated at whim.

To the green crusaders' relief the government has given up its plans for a war memorial in the Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain Park, not before four trees were reduced to stumps and Rs 30 lakh was spent on preparing the ground for it in the park. Still, they are jubilant at having saved a valuable lung space in the city, even if only by a whisker.
The controversy over the war memorial has, however, given rise to a latent fear that parks, so essential for a city, increasingly resembling a concrete jungle, are not safe even from the government. Tree lovers are far from confident that they have seen the last of government interference in green public places with the war memorial controversy having been laid to rest. The fact that amendments have already been brought to the Park Preservation Act to allow the Metro Rail to run through the Lalbagh and Cubbon Park, has hardly given them reason for comfort, particularly as several other lung spaces in the city too are under threat of being converted into amusement areas and being shorn of trees to harbour tall buildings.

But what is worrying is that not all attempts to destroy lung spaces in the city are as open as the one to place the war memorial in the Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain Park. Some are so stealthy, that the authorities get away with them with hardly a protest from the public. A small park in Jayanagar was quietly converted into a ward office for the BBMP last year, depriving the children of a playground and the neighbourhood of much needed breathing space in the midst of its many shopping complexes and apartment blocks.
The small park located opposite Usha Apartments in Jayanagar 4th Block disappeared so fast that the people were left rubbing their eyes in disbelief and wondering at the government's lack of sensitivity to their needs.

And only last month, a small pond at Cubbon Park maintained by a citizens' group led by former high court judge, Justice M.F. Saldhana was taken over by the horticulture department for a recreation ground. "If the government itself defies the law and decides to build one structure or another in public parks, where can the people go with their complaints?" asks Vinay Sreenivasa, member of Hasiri Usiru, a voluntary group fighting to retain what is left of the city's green cover.

"One must understand the difference between a park and an amusement area," says environmentalist Suresh Heblikar, underlining that the existing green laws must be made stronger bearing in the mind that parks are the only lung spaces left in the city.


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