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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 7, july 16-31, 2009
Will the City get its botanical garden?

A special issue on flora and fauna

(By A Special Correspondent)

Even as the Corporation of Chennai has been doing a commendable job on restoration of parks and gardens in the city and Government has created a separate department for increasing the tree cover, the fate of the 20 acres or so of greenery on Cathedral Road, taken back by the Government from the Agri-Horticultural Society following a High Court order in 2008, is undecided. The case has moved to the Supreme Court where the Government has been restrained from any development work on the site but has been allowed to make preliminary plans so that it will be ready if and when the case is decided in its favour.

In 2008, following the High Court judgement, the Government, after taking over the land on the completion of its lease to the Agri-Horticultural Society, appointed the Tamil Nadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services Limited (TNUIFSL) to select a suitable consultant to develop the land into a botanical garden. The Government had also mandated that the plans should be on the lines of Bangalore’s Lal Bagh. Other features such as a shade house, bamboo garden, orchid house, Moghul garden, glass house, herbal garden, bonsai garden, and children play area, besides a greenhouse for developing rare species of medicinal and non-medicinal plants and flowers, were also to be included. The garden, according to the Government, would come up on both sides of Cathedral Road with an underground corridor connecting the two to enable easy movement of the visiting public.

The Government has also stipulated that plans for the Botanical Garden should not be on the lines of what has already been proposed for the Adyar Poonga, the Marina beautification project or the miniature Tamizhagam project on the East Coast Road.

Based on these specifications, a four-member committee of the TNUIFSL studied proposals and selected M/s Rajendra Associates of Chennai for the task. It is reliably learnt that the consultants have progressed with their reports and will soon be submitting them after which tenders will be floated and a final bidder selected. The selected party, however, will not be able to put its plans into effect till the case is disposed of by the apex court.

This naturally raises several doubts. If the case takes a long while to decide, the costs on the basis of which the tender would be awarded may no longer be valid. If the Government forces the contractor to execute the project at the quoted costs, he may be tempted to cut corners resulting in a less than perfect execution. It is also not clear as to who is maintaining the verdant sprawl at present. The trees, though they look healthy enough from a distance, ­certainly require some tending. With the matter being sub-­judice, the gardens are not ­being cared for in any way.

It is to be hoped that the case is soon decided, so that one of Chennai’s last green spaces gets a new lease of life.

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