'Increased traffic if 7-storey annexe is allowed'

Top view of Sri Chamarajendra Park (Cubbon Park). DH Photo

Increased footfall, vehicular inflow and construction and demolition debris could disrupt Cubbon Park’s ecosystem, if a seven-storey high court annexe building comes up there, environmentalists warn, while drawing attention to an earlier court order that actually saved the park.

Twenty-one years ago, the Environment Support Group (ESG) had launched a massive ‘Save Cubbon Park’ campaign in response to a proposal to build a Legislators’ Home (LH) annexe within the green space. The legislators were so confident of approval that construction had started even before permissions were sought.

Anger against the then J H Patel government’s denotification of 44 acres of the park land for the annexe had brought together green activists, women’s groups, animal welfare activists and marginalised communities.

The battle to save the park was won then. But subsequently, the scenario changed. The permission to park vehicles in massive numbers disrupted the quiet and peace of this sylvan space.

“These are values that cannot be legislated and need to be culturally appreciated,” Environment Support Group (ESG) coordinator Leo Saldanha contends.

Technically, it could be argued that there is no fresh ground broken for the proposed building and so there may not be a legal violation. “But the issue here is not merely of technicalities, but of the aesthetic and ecological character of the place.”

Saldanha is sure that a massive seven-storey structure, combined with the sheer mass of concrete pile-up, would heavily compromise the local ecology and aesthetics of the place directly and irreversibly.

The unchecked encroachment and destruction of the park by various government departments had reduced the area of the green space to less than 200 acres.

The question now, as Saldanha points out, is if the latest order can sufficiently protect the park as the annexe involves the tearing down of an existing structure (a heritage building) and replacing it with a massive structure.

“This draws to attention the importance of town planning norms, particularly those relating to allowable floor area ratio,” he notes.

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