When we think of today's Bangalore, Cubbon Park and Lalbagh are the only two public parks of some value. The fact that these are centuries- old is insulting to the way in which Bengaluru has considered itself a "garden city". If that epithet was ever true, it changed when the BDA, an undemocratic para-statal body, took over city-planning in 1976.
Since then it has systematically promoted land-use polices that have wrecked the city's famed orchards, private gardens, and encouraged widespread encroachments of forests and lakes. So when one crore people have to go someplace verdant in the city, all they have is the 400 acres of green space that Cubbon Park and Lalbagh constitute. And as Lalbagh is ticketed, it means about half the population - the lower middle class and poorer populations - really don't have anywhere to go.
This has had a telling effect on the health of children, in particular, who once were able to make streets playgrounds, in addition to several parks and random open spaces. But not any more. Stuck in the narrow confines of the basements of apartments, or narrow lanes filled with vehicles, running around with gay abandon and climbing trees at will is a thing of the past.All this is adding up to a major public health crisis, as kids are forced into sedentary living, and lose interest in the naturally crazy aspects of urban living.
What can we do about this travesty? Start local and organise locally. Reclaim open spaces that have been lost. Start with streets, make them your own, and push back impersonal vehicles into parking zones or into the ozone layer. Find out which spaces have been encroached and get the Corporator to fix it. If he fails to, file a criminal complaint. It constitutes an environmental failure and that is indeed a crime per Law.
The writer is founder, ESG.