Why do parks comprise only three percent of Bengaluru's total area? A recent survey by Janaagraha, which uncovered this dismal statistic, also shows that the parks which do exist are barely suitable for use. Constant construction activity and vehicular movement are spoiling Cubbon Park, which should be protected as natural heritage. Out of the 1,115 BBMP parks surveyed, only seven got a 10/10 rating, reports Aknisree Karthik
As Bengaluru grows in a maze of concrete, any respite from nature is a blessing to be treasured. Cubbon Park and Lalbagh are two of Bengaluru’s biggest lung spaces– a Janaagraha report says only three percent of the city’s area comprises parks and green spaces. Cubbon Park, however, is overrun by its share of administrative problems. While Lalbagh is closed to vehicle movement, hundreds of automobiles play through Cubbon Park, which has become, over the last six months, a beehive of construction activity.
Some roads in the park have been dug up so cables can be laid and the Horticulture department is building gates and a water dispenser, which regular visitors say don’t blend with the surroundings. “Bengaluru used to be known as the air-conditioned city, but it’s now being exploited in so many ways. There were times when we would come on foot or bicycle to Cubbon Park to birdwatch. Those days are gone as more vehicles pass through,” says Umesh S, President of the Cubbon Park Walkers' Association.
"Cubbon Park has been reduced to a construction site. Work on a mud track, using Hosakote Gravel or Murram along the park, but the project was left incomplete. Work was also begun on a Kalyani (tank) near the Hudson Circle entrance but this again hasn’t been finished. Now, the new gates are being built and visitors bear the brunt of construction activity but we don’t know when it will be done,” he says, adding that all of these trappings are totally unnecessary.
The Karnataka Parks Preservation Act of 1975 says no construction activity should happen within the park premises. Little heed is paid to this by authorities and Umesh says, “At a time when we are fighting for the complete ban on vehicle movement inside the park, we see roads being dug up to lay cables. Officials from the Horticulture, BBMP and police departments should sit together and close the park to vehicular movement altogether."
The situation is even more chaotic when there are matches at Chinnaswamy and Kanteerava stadiums nearby. Officials allow vehicles to be parked even on the grass lawns, damaging the environment and water sprinklers too,” says Umesh. Bats and parakeets were found dead when traffic was diverted into the park because the white topping on Nrupathunga Road was being finished.
Sharing her opinion on Cubbon Park which has of late turned into a construction site, said Sapna Karim, Janaagraha. "At first, vehicles should not be allowed inside the park. Only vehicles of the visitors who want to access public library or High Court or the Press Club be allowed."
Even though Cubbon Park falls under the jurisdiction of Horticulture department I shall soon have a meeting with horticulture department and traffic to figure out if the park can be closed for vehicular traffic, said BBMP Mayor Mr Sampath Raj.
BBMP parks lack amenities, are shut through the day
The survey by Janaagraha, a prominent non-profit organisation based out of Bengaluru, says that the quality of BBMP parks is nowhere near satisfactory. Out of 1,115 parks, the team found that only seven received a 10/10 rating, while 470 received a score below five, indicating the lack of basic amenities.
Speaking to DC, Ms Sapna Karim, head, Civic Participation, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, said, "Parks, if they are to draw people, should have amenities like drinking water, benches, toilets and proper lighting. That they need to be free of garbage barely needs pointing out. Walking and jogging tracks are also important, for they bring visitors back regularly.”
Another widely-lamented problem is the fact that parks are open only four a couple of hours in the mornings and evenings, to keep ‘anti-social’ elements at bay. Karim refers to this, saying, "In our survey, we found that 21 percent of the parks and playgrounds were closed and they did not have any board indicating the park's timings. BBMP parks are open only in morning and evening and closed rest the day", she said.
"Parks should be open round the clock. In large cities across the world, parks do not have any fencing, so citizens feel like they are part of the environment and get there in some time" she suggests.
The BBMP should start with improving basic amenities, says Karim. Out of 709 sq km, the city only has some 19.3 sq km dedicated to open spaces like parks and playgrounds. If even these aren’t accessible, how can the city be sustained? BBMP should explore the option of park adoption by citizens, corporate companies and other PPP models.
The total budget allocated for parks and playgrounds in 2017-18 stands at Rs 165 crores. "Ward level requirements should be taken into consideration while the budget is created. The budget could vary from one park to another as in some parks things can be made out of mud while others may need granite. The allotted budget should be closely monitored so that the park scores well in all aspects."