Lush green parks are the lungs of the national capital, which is the most densely populated State in the country. It is unfortunate that they have been the target of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) for long. Increasing vehicular congestion and rapid urbanisation has pushed air pollution levels beyond permissible limits. Besides, effects of air pollution on health are enormous. Parks offer a breath of fresh air for improved health. Any construction activity in the parks is not only an assault on nature, but also catastrophic for the atmosphere. Construction activity must, therefore, be carried out after utmost contemplation, without any selfish motive.
In an attempt to give a facelift to its parks, the SDMC, in conjunction with the horticulture department, is planning to set up gazebos or garden huts in south Delhi parks. Excluding colony parks, which are not more than one acre in size, the SDMC is planning to develop the huts in about 700 small, medium and large size parks covering 2,000 acres of land. The total expenditure may run into crores of rupees.
While planning for a overhaul, the SDMC must keep a few things in mind. The garden huts will be between three and five metres in diameter. Concreting in such a large area will kill greenery and render a large section of the land infertile. Land under the canopy normally does not get sunlight, and with constant foot tempering, it will become barren. Also, the construction of debris in any park will eat away a large area of the land, thereby reducing the area for walk and yoga.
The SDMC’s initiative, that is aimed at promoting a club-like culture where people can exchange ideas and indulge in community participation, is a farce. In the name of ‘aesthetic facelift’, this is a sinister plan to grab park land in a quid pro quo relationship between the politicians and the builder mafia.
The authorities must take the resident welfare associations in confidence and educate people about the pros and cons of their project. Residents will, of course, give priority to open green space as it is a major source of fresh air. Plants are natural cleansers, a gift that takes up injurious carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. Our aim must be to preserve plants in our vicinity and not destroy them by unscrupulous construction activities.
A similar plan in connivance with the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, to open restaurants and toilets in parks, in the guise of holding cultural festivals and showcasing artifacts, did not go down well with the residents and got scuttled for obvious reasons. Now, the SDMC has yet again come up with the idea of face-lifting the parks but the question is: Do the residents really want it?
Globalisation and Internet access have given us enough opportunity for increased social interaction to a point that more and more people are looking for solace. Undoubtedly, parks offer peace. Moreover, an emphasis on regular walks and exercise by health professionals, is yet another reason that our parks need space.
The horticulture department must aim at maintaining greenery and build enough benches for relaxation purpose. Scarcity of water, lack of sanitation, stench from litter and open defecation by unauthorised occupants might render the parks unusable. As far as showcasing art works is concerned, there are a number of auditoriums that can be used for this purpose.
Seasonal vagaries will in any case ruin the openly kept artifacts in no time. Lastly, the electronic media has an important role to play. It must refrain from repeating stories in the ‘breaking news’ syndrome and instead, raise issues like the importance of expanding green areas as much as possible, preserving the parks and not allowing any construction activity inside.
(The writer is a freelance journalist)