I was reading my daily newspaper along with my morning tea couple of weeks back and my eyes wandered around to a small news item on the bottom of the page. The news item was about a Children’s park in Bangalore which was opened with much fanfare last year and now just after one year the park is in shambles. All the plants have vanished and what you find in the park is trash scattered all across in the park. Children for whom this park was created do not even come there in the park for obvious reasons.

I read the story and moved on as I generally do with most of the stories. Suddenly, it stuck my mind that isn’t it the same old story that we read often in the newspapers as well as happens around all of us. We just have to stick our neck out and there are examples galore. Most of the parks are inaugurated with big fanfare and after sometime they get relegated to ruins and shambles due to lack of interest of municipal authorities but most importantly the lack of interest from end-users i.e. local residents. Thereby, these parks become “dead” parks for all practical purposes.

There is one similar story of a park near my house in East Delhi. We had a beautiful park when we were kids but over a period of time it turned into shambles and a garbage dumping ground. There were no plants or trees left in the park. Park had become one of the favorite event ground for local marriage and social events which ensured that whatever little flora came up in the ground, got trashed during such event. There would just be mud, soil and dust plumes all over left in the park after such events.

At some point of time, couple of years back, few senior citizens or uncles of the locality got together to change the things. They wrote to municipal authorities and got the park declared as ‘Ornamental Park’ which meant that no social event, setting up of pandals, etc could take place in the park. This all took couple of months for them and many letters to authorities... I must add that this was not an easy ride.

A gardener was assigned to the park to take care of plantations. Trees and flower plants were planted in the park. All the uncles fixed the responsibilities amongst themselves… on their own to take care of watering in the park. Whosoever, would go to the park in the morning, would open the tap and water the plants. They will not wait for the gardener to come. Once in a month they would call a sweeper and pay him some money to clean the garbage from the park. They spoke to all the houses around the park to impress upon them not to throw garbage in the park. All this resulted in a beautiful park over a period of 6-9 months into a lush green park with trees and plantations blooming with green leaves and flowers.

Now going back to the original story, I was wondering if something similar can be done in other parks as well then it might ensure that the parks remain the “living” parks and do not become the “dead” parks.

My few ideas to municipal authorities

.... for existing as well as new parks are as given below. May be I need to put this differently... there is a need to work out an approach document as to how we are going to manage our parks. Once this approach is laid out, this shall be cascaded to all the municipal and other relevant authorities so that there is a consistent and effective approach to manage the parks. My few ideas as narrated below may may not make our parks the best in class but will definitely ensure that parks are clean and green and living places -

1. Reach out to senior citizens
....who live around the park and form a sort of committee / informal group. These senior citizens can reach out to local municipal authorities if municipal gardeners / sweepers, etc are not doing their jobs regularly of watering and cleaning the parks.

2. Local people living around the parks
These senior citizens can reach out to locals living around the park to educate them about the upkeep of the park.

3. Resident Welfare Associations
.... can also be involved in ensuring the maintenance of the parks. After all, they are the ones who are nearest to such parks. If required, these RWAs can pull in members to reach out to authorities.

4. Reach out to local business
....to adopt the park… practically, this means these business houses can spend some money on some swings, benches, gardener, etc and in turn they can put up their advertising boards in the park. Long time back, I had noticed this concept being used extensively in Mumbai.

5. Involve local schools
... around the area to visit the park once in a month for couple of hours and do a drive to clean the park as well as to water the plantations. This is one of the best way to inculcate the importance of maintaining our environment.

6. Beat constables
Talk to the local police authorities so that beat constable visits the park at least once in 2-3 days just to ensure the place has not become congregating place for street urchins and druggists.

7. Appoint a Citizen-Warden for each park
The person could be any local citizen may be a retired officer or a teacher, etc whose role would be not much except for highlighting the issues to respective departments so that the park attended by the various maintenance teams. Local authorities can work out a mechanism to engage with them.

8. Waste Water Recycling
Local authorities shall explore the waste water recycling to water the parks as it will ensure greenery in the parks year around as well as solve the problem of waste water thus leading to a clean surroundings. This will be a one-time investment for the municipal corporations but will add a big time in addressing the issue of environmental pollution.

My last comment is that these parks are meant for us citizens and we shall also get involved in whatever little way we can. We need these parks for ourselves and for our kids and parents. Therefore, It is important for us that these parks are “living” parks. One easiest thing that we can do is that if we see any park not being in good condition then at least write a letter to Municipal Commissioner and newspapers of the area stating the condition of the park.

I am sure if we all join hands together it will make a difference and our dying parks will become more lively places and breathing lungs of the cities.