Ruining Lalbagh garden
The ongoing construction of a parking lot inside the historic garden has opened a can of worms. Citizens are up in arms over the government’s move to
The facility coming up on a five acre plot along the Siddapura Gate has met with severe protests from people of all hues - morning walkers, environmentalists and bird watchers.
The Lalbagh Garden - a confluence of geology, ecology and archaeology - has undergone a sea change over the years, for the worse. Experts attribute it to the increase in anthropogenic pressure and vehicular density. Being the biggest lung space in the City after Cubbon Park, Lalbagh draws visitors by the thousands.
According to a study conducted in 1998 by Dr M B Krishna and some bird watchers, nearly 26,500 people visited Lalbagh on Sunday, May 31, 1998. Another survey by the same group found that the garden had attracted 28,000 footfalls on May 30, 1999, also Sunday.
The visitors included morning walkers, late exercisers and picnickers. Though no fresh studies were conducted after 1999, the horticulture department statistics reveal that presently, not less than five lakh people visit the park during the weeklong biannual flower shows.
But the 18th Century park, said to house the country’s largest collection of tropical plants, is now under severe threat, what with its land being appropriated for commercial purposes. Early this year, greens launched an agitation against the acquisition of its land for the Namma Metro rail project. Then came a massive public protest against the appropriation of another tract of its land for building a signal-free corridor connecting Sirsi Circle and Koramangala.
What has drawn people’s ire now is the parking lot, supposedly to provide parking space for visitors to the biannual flower shows.
“There are several unnecessary things happening here. This parking lot is not required at all. It is all happening because of that flower shows. Things will be set right once they are banned,” said Jayashri Rajanahalli, a morning walker at the park. “It is not a flower show; it’s garbage show - because rubbish piles up everywhere in the park whenever these shows are held,” she fumed.
Other walkers said sufficient space was available in and around the garden for visitors to park their vehicles.
Sadashiva Reddy, president, Lalbagh Walkers Association (LWA), said flower shows had spelt a disaster for the park. “Why should flower shows be held here? They could be shifted in the interest of the park. Moreover, nobody knows how much revenue is generated from the shows and how much is utilised for the development of Lalbagh,” he said.
“There are no people to prevent littering of waste in the park or enforce cleanliness here.
Why are hawkers selling water and soft drinks to visitors allowed inside the park?” asks A Sridhara, a psychologist and a regular visitor to Lalbagh since the early 1960s. He said despite a ban, people continued to play football and badminton on the park premises.
People blame the apathy of the authorities for the ills faced by the park, leading to loss of its green cover.
“There are old and aged trees that are dying; but there has been no replacement for them. Let them show one sapling they have planted recently,” said Dr M B Krishna, a bird watcher. He also pointed out that a herbarium set up by the British had disappeared.
Lalbagh has more non-horticultural activities and offices, the horticulture department has revealed in its reply to an RTI query by Goutham Aditya. It houses about 20 government offices with 479 employees who have about 70 vehicles (20 two-wheelers and 50 four-wheelers).
The department has also said it was yet to conduct a survey of the movement of vehicles within the park. To a question on security, the authorities said 62 private security personnel patrolled the entire Garden round the clock.
Members of the Lalbagh Walkers Association have begun a signature campaign opposing the construction of the parking lot. “We have seen the fate of Cubbon Park, which has been divided by constructing roads. We do not want the same to happen to Lalbagh,” says Association president Sadashiva Reddy.
Dr K G Jagadish, director, Lalbagh, however, sought to clarify that the parking lot was not conceived by the park authorities but that it had been proposed by Suvarana Karnataka Udhyana Parishat and approved by a committee.
He said the under-construction parking lot was a quarry earlier and it had been filled up to convert into parking space. The area had been used for parking vehicles earlier, too, Jagadish said. The work on the parking lot will now be stalled in the wake of the public protest, he said.
He said parking of vehicles will not be allowed inside the park except on the Double Road side. Jagadish, who is also the chairperson of Mysore Horticulture Society which organises flower shows biannually, said the department was conducting flower shows only because people liked it. A decision to shift the flower shows will be taken after sufficient debate, he said.
On the decreasing tree cover and greenery, he said every place had its carrying capacity, and listed out some of the programmes that had been drawn up for increasing the green cover.
Regarding the revenue generated from flower shows and its utility, Jagadish said the money generated from the shows was not utilised for the development of Lalbagh, but spent on training programmes for development of horticulture.
“The profit is very marginal - somewhere between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 30 lakh. The Society decides on what the money should be spent.”
He said the park required at least three months to recover post-flower shows. On the vehicular movement inside the park, he said the department would soon bar vehicles from plying beyond 20 feet of the compound walls.
Sultan Hyder Ali commissioned the building of Lalbagh Garden in 1760, and his son Tipu Sultan completed it. Trees and plants from several countries were imported to be planted in the garden.
In 1874, Lalbagh had an area of 45 acres. In 1889, 30 acres were added to the eastern side, followed by 13 acres in 1891, including the rock with the Kempegowda tower; and 94 acres more in 1894 on the eastern side, just below the rock, bringing it to a total of 188 acres.
The foundation stone for the Glass House, modelled after London’s Crystal Palace, was laid on November 30, 1898, by Prince Albert Victor.
Lalbagh is now a 240-acre garden and is located in south Bangalore. It has over 1,854 species of flora. The Lalbagh Rock (gneissic rocks), one of the oldest rock formations on earth, dates back to 3,000 million years and houses one of the four cardinal towers constructed by Kempegowda, the founder of Bangalore City.
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