How long will Cubbon survive?

Cubbon Park

By permitting the construction of a seven-storied building within Cubbon Park, the Karnataka High Court may well have sounded the death knell of one of Bengaluru’s last surviving green spaces as the order is sure to open the floodgates for more such structures in the future. Ironically, the new building will serve as the annexe of the high court. The proposed structure will be erected after demolishing the old office of the Election Commission, which itself is a heritage building. The court’s approval came after the government’s assurance that no trees would be cut, and that the plinth area will not exceed that of the existing building. This is hardly any consolation, as an ugly monstrosity towering over the green canopy of Cubbon Park will still be an eyesore, not to mention the pressure on the already fragile area due to the increased human and vehicular traffic. The presence of the high court in the Cubbon Park premises is itself a bane rather than a boon. A few years ago, a large area of land was cleared to create parking space for advocates and clients, while an annexe was constructed to meet the growing requirements of the court, leading to protests from environmentalists.

Cubbon Park, which encompassed an area of 300 acres when it was conceived by the then acting commissioner of Mysore state, John Meade, and executed by his chief engineer Major General Richard Sankey around 1870, has now shrunk to less than 200 acres. Over 25 buildings and clubs dot the area, and with the dilution of the Karnataka Parks and Preservation Act, 1975, Cubbon Park has become even more vulnerable. The latest threat is the rise of commercial activities like marathons and vintage car rallies through the park. Yet, despite such continuous onslaught, the park has managed to play host to several indigenous varieties of trees, small animals and birds.

Any new construction in the park requires the permission of the high court as per the judgment in the G K Govindarao vs State of Karnataka case. In the past, the court has played a crucial role in protecting the park when the government sought to build an annexe to the Legislators’ Home and a multi-storied parking lot. However, in the instant case, the high court has put its own interest ahead of that of the park. If the court is hard-pressed for space and needs to expand, it should move out to a new location instead of paving way for converting green spaces into concrete jungles. The move should be abandoned forthwith, and Cubbon Park should be preserved for future generations.

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