Statue, Disneyland plan atrocious

A view of the Brindavan Gardens, abutting the KRS dam, in Srirangapatna taluk, Mandya district.

The Karnataka government’s move to develop the Brindavan Gardens at KRS dam near Mysuru on the lines of Disneyland in the US and construct a 125-ft tall statue-cum-viewing tower of Mother Cauvery appears to be ill-conceived, given the many downsides. The construction of the dam across the Cauvery began in 1911 under the personal supervision of engineer-statesman Sir M Visvesvaraya and was named after the then Maharaja of the Mysuru kingdom, Krishnaraja Wodeyar. The Brindavan Gardens, a botanical park with numerous fountains, was developed by German horticulture legend Gustav Hermann Krumbiegal, who was also the brain behind Bengaluru’s Lalbagh. The government’s proposal includes setting up an amusement park, a museum complex, two glass towers, a bandstand and replicas of historical monuments. The Rs 1,200 crore project, to be taken up under a public-private partnership, will be entirely privately funded while the land will be provided by the government.

While a Disneyland-style park at no cost to the public is definitely a welcome move as it is certain to boost tourism, the choice of location has raised questions. The project may also violate the guidelines of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), which state that a historical garden cannot be isolated from its own particular environment, whether urban or rural, artificial or natural. The garden must be preserved in appropriate surroundings and any alternation to the physical environment which will endanger the ecological equilibrium must be prohibited. A venture of such a magnitude is also fraught with many other dangers, especially the safety of tourists in the vicinity of a huge dam with water gushing out with great force during monsoon. A bigger question is, can the reservoir itself, which is over a century old, handle the pressure of the increased tourist footfall. The KRS is a major source of drinking and irrigation water supply to Mysuru, Mandya, Bengaluru and parts of Tamil Nadu. Given our dismal track record of sewage treatment, waste management, garbage recycling and conservation, a massive theme park may well reduce the Cauvery to the most polluted river in the South.

The government may still go ahead with the project, but at a different location, considering that the public exchequer will not be burdened. At the same time, the Brindavan Gardens and the once famous ‘Dancing Fountain’ are in poor shape and need to be upgraded immediately, without altering their basic structure. But first, our governments should strive to get the basics right — ending illiteracy, eradication of hunger and health for all. In the Cauvery basin, specifically, the focus must be on water and water-related issues. Dam tourism and towering statues can wait.

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Statue, Disneyland plan atrocious

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