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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XX No. 1, april 16-30, 2010
Welcome redevelopment
of parks & gardens
(By the Editor)

One thing that the Corpo-ration of Chennai and the Government have got right in the city over the last few years has been the greening of enclosed spaces. Park after park in the city has got a makeover, walking spaces, play areas have been created in them, and their greening, both with trees and flower-bearing plants, has not only been done tastefully but, welcomingly, maintained and sustained. There are still several parks among the hundred and more in the city, but they are one by one being tackled and every area within city limits will before long offer its residents attractive space to spend early mornings and evenings in.

Why the exotics and not native species?

The news “City’s first botanical garden is nearing completion” made depressing reading. I was unhappy that the creators of the present botanical garden have emphasised establishing ‘exotics’. The Coromandel is the home of several glorious natives. Instead of promoting native species and their aesthetic and economic relevance to the people of Madras, the effort seems to be to establish exotics and, thus, promote them in the revamped garden. Whatever be the reason for such a decision, this action is deplorable, given that all through the world botanicals are promoting natives in their respective bioregions. I hope in the excitement to install exotics, the Tamil Nadu Horticulture Department has not cut down fascinating trees, such as Nauciea and Garcinia, and the few bamboos growing in the erstwhile Drive-in Woodlands landsite!

Did they not consult the botanists of Madras today?

Anantanarayanan Raman
Senior Lecturer in Ecological Agriculture
Charles Sturt University
PO Box 883, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia

In this context, work on developing an eco-park by the Adyar Estuary – the Adyar Poonga – is, by all accounts, progressing smoothly. More importantly, with the Poonga partly opened to small groups of students, the few who’ve followed its trekking trails have found it a most enjoyable experience, and nature lovers who have seen the development feel that it will, when completed, be one of the better of the city’s green attractions.

Now there’s announcement of development of what promises to be an as attractive, if not more attractive, green space in the city. Government has announced that it proposes to develop the erstwhile Agri-Horticultural Gardens on Cathedral Road into a major Botanical and Ornamental Garden and that work has already begun on its main portion, the southern half, with a completion target of September this year. When the garden is opened to the public, it will be one of the largest lungs in the city.

Originally a single expanse of 20.76 acres of green, the garden was divided when Cathedral Road was laid in the 1850s. The southern portion was subsequently leased to the Woodlands Drive-In Restaurant which was evicted from the premises following a High Court judgement in Government’s favour in 2008. The northern portion, which houses the Horticultural Society’s offices and a large garden and sales counter, continues to function, but is being fought over in court by the Society and the Government.

The plans for the southern gardens were drawn up by Rajendran Associates, a Chennai architectural firm, for the Horticulture Department of the Government for the development of the southern garden and the implementation is being done by the State’s Agriculture Department in collaboration with private landscaping agencies. The whole exercise will cost Rs. 8 crore.

When completed the garden will have Italian, German, Japanese and English gardens, besides generic forms such as butterfly, rock and aroma gardens. There will also be a children’s play area.

Plans for the northern side (sandwiched between the Cathedral and the Rane Group’s headquarters) are yet to be unveiled, because of the legal tangles that have to be unsnarled, but it is reliably learnt that, when things get sorted out, plans will envisage linking the two sides by means of an overbridge or a subway. We fervently hope that it is the latter, for the city’s skyscape has been marred sufficiently by flyovers and overbridges. Also, it has repeatedly been pointed out that overbridges are rarely used in the city. Most people find the task of climbing them irksome. The same goes for subways. Whatever the solution it must provide for escalators so that people can use the corridor with ease. The CMDA is, however, yet to give approval for corridors of either type for the garden.

While all these plans look good and will no doubt be beneficial to the city when executed, it would be best to keep in mind certain dos and don’ts while going ahead. Firstly, the entire garden is full of very healthy trees and it would not do to cut them down to put in place English/Italian or any other garden. Whatever is to be designed must be done keeping these trees intact. The city has already lost a lot of valuable green cover in Government Estate and its environs owing to the new Assembly buildings and a repeat of the same will not only be ironical, considering that it is a botanical garden that is being planned, but will also be severely detrimental to the city’s ambient air quality. The plans, while giving the assurance that no permanent structure will come up in the gardens, are silent when it comes to the trees.

Secondly, whatever is designed and developed will need to be maintained well. The Chennai Corporation has in the last few years shown that it can maintain its parks well. Can the same quality of maintenance be extended to the proposed botanical gardens? Security will also be required, for a large wooded expanse should not become a den for nefarious activities. The struggle that took place to relieve the Madi Poonga on Old Jail Road of these elements is still fresh in public memory.

Lastly, can we hope for public conveniences which are clean and kept available? Else our public, who largely think that trees are sent into this world for only one purpose, may put them to uses that may render the gardens not very appealing.

And while we are on the subject of city gardens, we hope the partially restored My Ladye’s Garden will be fully restored to complement the now being restored Ripon Building and that it will see a revival of the Annual Flower Show, once one of the highlights of Madras’ social life.


In this issue

Welcome redevelopment of parks & gardens
Turning T’Nagar into an aerial city?
Two historic buildings under threat
The new Assembly complex and Uttaramerur
Historic Residences of Chennai - 40
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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