Hyderabad: People visit parks primarily for a breath of fresh air. But in the Public Garden or Bagh-e-Aam what they get is a lungful of carbon dioxide. The ambient air quality here is deteriorating gradually thanks to vehicular emissions. It is the only park in the city which sees regular movement of heavy vehicles.
With offices in the vicinity, vehicular movement is constant. And whenever the State Legislative Assembly is in session, the number of vehicles increases.
Time was when the Bagh-e-Aam, was an oasis in the city, providing an escape from stress and pollution. “Unfortunately, the quality of air is not so good these days. Instead of oxygen we breathe in pollutants,” says Ghulam Yezdani, president of the Public Gardens Walkers Association. There was a time when the shimmering water of the lake, gentle trills of birds and the verdant expanses used to lift spirits. Today, a dried up lake bed with green patches of algae is a distressing sight. Migrant birds used to come here in good numbers in winter from Siberia attracted by the artificial lake. Today, no self respecting bird would want to feed in the unclean waters.
The 150-year-old park, the oldest in Hyderabad, is frequented by about 3,000 walkers every day. The park still offers some greenery to people whose neighbourhoods offer none. But the unswept pathways, inadequate washrooms and smog rising from burnt garbage is a major irritant. There is no separate washroom for women; there is only one pay-and-use bathroom near Jubilee Hall. The other one, near the Telugu University gate, is mostly used by labourers. Walkers often go to the Asif Tennis Club garden to use the toilets there. “We have no option but to allow them,” says Dr P.V. Rao, the Club’s president. Stray dogs create a problem for walkers in the morning and mosquitoes from the dried up lake in the evening.
Once a beautiful water body, it is now totally parched except for puddles of rain water collected during the August downpour. Ever since the channel which used to supply water to it from Tank Bund caved in five years ago, the lake has gone dry. The Horticulture Department wrote to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation to repair the channel but the latter has not been able to locate the underground channel, it is said.
During the monsoon season the lake gets good inflows. But nearly 80 per cent of the water is lost through seepage while 15 per cent evaporates One plan to revive the 2.5 acre lake is by laying geotextile sheets to arrest the seepage of rain water. “It is a costly proposition. Government has to take a decision,” says Vijay Prasad, Deputy Director, Horticulture Department.
With the state legislature being convened on January 18, the freedom of walkers will be curtailed further.
“We are not allowed to enter the Public Garden after 7 am although the Assembly starts at 11 am. This restriction should be relaxed,” says Sohanlal Cadle, a regular walker, echoing the views of many others.