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Vertical gardens lose battle against pollution on Delhi roads

In the second year of the experiment, plants beneath flyovers across the city have wilted because of extreme weather conditions and poor maintenance 

Published: 16th October 2019 09:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2019 09:31 AM   |  A+A-

Experts said that vertical gardens failed in the city due to poor choice of plants and an environment degrading phenomenon with the use of plastic pots.

Experts said that vertical gardens failed in the city due to poor choice of plants and an environment degrading phenomenon with the use of plastic pots. (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: An idea that had the right intention has failed to achieve its goal. Erroneous selection of plants, ineffective watering method couple with lack of suitable maintenance has practically deflated the authorities’ ambitious plan — vertical gardens — introduced to enhance aesthetic of pillars and blank walls of flyovers, and fencing of the bridges along the arterial roads in the national capital.

Touted as an anti-pollution measure and to increase green cover in Delhi, the concept of vertical gardens at most places in the city have turned brown and wilted. Nurturing them has become a challenge for the concerned agencies due to a number of reasons like expensive maintenance and extreme weather conditions in the city being the foremost reason.

The dry plants or damaged saplings placed in racks at flyovers around the city including Yamuna Bridge, ITO skywalk, Lajpat Nagar, Sarai Kale Khan, Andrews Gunj and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) stations like the Dhaula Kuan Metro portray an unsightly picture. 

“All the plants used by us are of Indian breed keeping the climate in mind but unfortunately the Delhi weather doesn’t allow the vertical garden to flourish. The temperature in Delhi swings between two degrees Celsius to 48 degrees Celsius. By the time, it soars, the plants in the vertical garden collapse. They are delicate breeds and need humid climate like in Pune and Maharashtra,” a Public Works Department (PWD) official said. 

Experts said that vertical gardens are a failure in Delhi due to the choice of plants and also an indirect environment degrading phenomenon with the use of plastic pots. 

CR Babu, Professor Emeritus at centre for environment management for degraded ecosystem at Delhi University praised the “idea behind creating vertical gardens” but “the kind of vertical gardens mainly under the flyovers are pathetic”. 

“While, we are banning plastic, the majority of pots in these vertical gardens are plastic. Secondly, the pots are small and it is not possible for them to breathe and survive. The plant breed that should be used in vertical gardens needs to have broad leaves, which is also better for containing pollution,” Babu told The Morning Standard. 

He also suggested use of creepers as vertical gardens.  “Creepers are cheaper and need less maintenance. Once grown they remain without much hassle unlike the pots which need frequent maintenance,” he said.
The mainly used plants include asparagus, money plant (golden), Rohio. Babu suggested growing bulbous and tuberous plants for better results.     

Within months, the concerned bodies had to begin replacing the plants and pots at certain places. In its second year, the agencies struggled in spending money and man-power in keeping these plants alive. 
Workers from the agencies complain that it is the failure due to lack of “drip-irrigation” method, which is leading to the death of the plants.  

“The only way to keep them healthy is by drip-irrigation, a technique that is missing in Delhi. The way watering is happening is with a pipeline but that is not helping in keeping these plants alive.  The life depends on the plants also - if seasonal then it is 4 to 5 months. The plants under shade also need specific care while watering,” said an official from one of the agencies managing the vertical gardens in south Delhi.  

Another example of failure of a vertical garden in Delhi is at Rani Jhansi Road near Azadpur market. 
RNS Tyagi, the former director of the central public works department’s horticulture wing called it a “complete failure”.  “There is no gain in vertical gardens created with pots in Delhi. I have noted there is only loss in this initiative. I had also filed an RTI to know the cost of setting these gardens and then their maintenance but am yet to receive a reply,” Tyagi added. 

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