Shrinking lung space in burgeoning Bangalore

A lush green space in the heart of the city. Describing it merely as a tourist spot would be inaccurate, incomplete and even edging on the offensive. Its significance extends far beyond tourism revenue generation. The place means more than just a Botanical Park: residents of the City will tell.

Understanding its importance for Bangaloreans would require a peek into the memories of at least a few hundred people. The loner by the lake feeding the birds, the old couple arriving at the park for their morning walk at exactly the same time day after day, for the past several decades, the persistent photographer in search of a particular species of bird, the student who wants to read a couple of pages before going to class- the park is an inseparable part of their routine and their lives.

For many Bangaloreans, the place is a bridge between their childhood and the present life. For others, it is an oasis in the desert of a city that has forgone much of its greenery. It is because of these factors that any slight alteration of the place is met with much hostility and invokes the fury of the public. The recent protests in the wake of the proposed parking lot in the premises, is testimony to this.

Also, it is not just the problem of the parking space; visitors to Lalbagh have brought to the notice of the officials many other infrastructure problems in the park.

The problem of stray dogs is yet to be controlled and more water tanks for animals have
to be provided, says Vijendra, a yoga teacher who conducts classes in Lalbagh.
Depleting biodiversity has been a cause of concern for all. Arrival of migrating birds is reducing and there are not many flowering plants on the premises anymore, according to the observations of regular visitors. Karthik S N, a photographer, is trying to find migratory birds in Lalbagh in vain.

“All I can find are parakeets and mynahs. By now, other migratory birds should have arrived,” he says. “Also, there are hardly any flowers anymore. It is a disappointment to a photographer. The officials should take immediate measures to improve the situation,” he adds.

Not just this, the problem of the ubiquitous plastic bottles haunts the place. These are not dumped by visitors but by the officials who attend meetings here, complains a member of the Lalbagh Walkers’ Association, preferring anonymity.
He adds that waste on the premises is carelessly heaped and burnt every evening in an unscientific manner.

“True to what the hoarding reads at the entrance of Labagh, once you enter the premises you must hold it in reverence,” says Purushotham Das, a retired employee of Canara Bank, quoting lines from the hoarding.

“Inside Lalbagh, nature stands taller and mandates respect,” he says, speaking against allowing vehicles on the premises.

He also points out that there is sand lying by the road in several places, which poses a threat to senior citizens who come here for their walk. Das, who owes his good health to the place, has been a visitor to Lalbagh for the last three decades.

“What the place needs is an official committed to the cause. These things can be set right in a jiffy, but none of the officials seems to care about the place.”

T N SEEtaram, tele-serial actor-director

When they started work here, we thought they would plant medicinal plants in the garden. We were told so. We realised it was a parking lot only later. Let them have musical fountains, more saplings, but not a parking lot. We have already lost a lot of green cover and we shouldn’t lose anymore.

A Sridhara, psychologist and morning walker

Lalbagh needs botanists who have adequate knowledge of trees to protect it. Unfortunately, there are not many who know enough about trees here. It is a historic park where I have seen legends like Sir M Visvesvaraya going for walks even when he was 100 years old, in the early 60s.

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