BENGALURU: Bengaluru’s favourite weekend destination Nandi Hills or Nandidurg may soon be spruced up. The horticulture department, which maintains it, has rolled up its sleeves to sort out garbage, security and tourism management issues.
Visitors may not have missed the plastic covers and bottles strewn about the hill’s slopes. The department has not either and so it has invited a private agency to sort it out. Garbage is one of the biggest headaches they have to deal with, according to officials.
Private groups are also channelling their efforts to save the hill. They have decided on a marathon, another of Bengaluru’s favourites, to raise awareness about the state of the hill and what we must do to conserve its ecology.
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NandiHillathon, organised by United Way Bengaluru, will be held on June 12.
Manish Michael, executive director of United Way Bengaluru, says, “In the last couple of decades, the entire face of Bengaluru city has changed. Nandi Hills is one of the landmarks which still remains untouched. However, it is now facing threats because of garbage, reducing bio-diversity and lack of civil society engagement. Our intent was to draw people’s attention to the hills and work towards protecting, preserving and promoting it.”
A volunteer helping with the organising of the marathon, Rajesh Krishnan, says, “We Bengalureans are blessed with the Nandi Hills. Hence it is our duty to protect it and its biodiversity. We will give the 10 per cent of the registration fee for the marathon towards the protection of the hills.”
Plastic is found in heaps along the hill, on the roads, over the parks where families picnic and even on the centuries-old fort built during the Ganga Period (350 BC to 1000 BC). Tourists have even contributed to dump sites attached to the fort’s periphery with discarded packets of chips and water bottles and someone has burnt the pile to make space for more.
These piles harm the ecology of the hills and burning them has caused visible charring on the stones of the fort. The discarded covers attract monkeys who try to chew through the plastic.
Yellappa Reddy, governing council member, Foundation for Ecological Security of India, visited the hill station and suggested the department invite the founder and director of a private organisation, Nalini Shekar, for consultation on dealing with garbage. Nalini’s Hasiru Dala organises waste pickers to provide solid-waste management solutions.
On June 8, the experts from her organisation will visit the hills. The department, on its part, is planning to segregate the garbage and generate manures from it.
Solutions can be a combination of the tried and tested methods and innovations, according to Nalini Shekar. “Local solutions that are effective and pocket-friendly can be employed,” she said.
Visitors often clamber up the fort’s walls to take selfies and photographs. This has been happening despite the boards that warn them of the risks involved. A horticulture department official says that they are short of security staff to implement this rule.
The lack of guards is also worrying women tourists. Ammu Nair, a visitor, says, “If you have not come with a group, you will feel unsafe, particularly while you climb the hill. There should be enough guards posted along the hills’ roads.”
The department is planning to deploy more home guards. Along with that, they are also planning to add 20 more CCTV cameras to the existing 22.
The horticulture department has retarred a stretch of the road for `1.62 crore and will officially open it in a couple of months. They are also planing to introduce eco vehicles to the summit of the hill.
More ticket counters will be opened with extra staff during weekends and festival seasons.
One of the major attractions of Nandi Hills, Tipu Sultan’s Summer Residence built in 1791, is clearly lacking maintenance. Name and information boards have fallen off and have been kept leaning against the walls, open to the sun and rain. The one that has weathered every storm is one placed by the Archaeological Survey of India that talks of the historical importance of this monument. Payal Agarwal, a visitor, wishes there was a curator to share the stories of the fort and its buildings. She blames the visitors for the bad state of the fort. “Visitors deface the monument,” she says. N Ramesh, Special Officer, Horticulture Department (Nandi Hills), pleads helplessness. “The archaeological department is supposed to take care of the summer palace,” he says. “I have been
communicating with the officials about the need to maintain the monument. Two roof tiles are broken, so water is seeping into the palace. The ASI officials say they’re doing their best. NBD Kempegowda, senior conservation assistant, ASI, says, “We are maintaining status quo. Hence we cannot renovate it. The department has deployed a warden to take care of the monument.”