NEW DELHI: Delhi’s status as one of the greenest cities in the world may be threatened soon, if rampant illegal encroachment of parks and gardens in the capital is not stopped. Delhi has a whopping 14,596 parks, out of which, according to official figures, one in every 14 is encroached. Many believe that the unofficial figure may actually be much higher.
Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) officials say, that out of 14,596 parks, spread over an area in excess of 5,500 acres, 5,945 are ornamental, with amenities like water and musical fountains. There are 297 children’s parks and 30 mahila parks for women. Currently, MCD is managing 1,100 gardens spread across 272 acres, on a public-private-partnership (PPP) basis, with various resident welfare associations (RWA) and NGOs. These RWA’s and NGOs are paid `600 per acre per quarter, for maintenance of these gardens. 250 parks are maintained by commercial organisations.
According to documents accessed by The Sunday Standard, in 2009-10, the budget for operation and maintenance of gardens available to the horticulture department of MCD was `2,400 lakhs, which increased to `4,355 lakhs in 2010-11, and is `3,225 lakhs for the current year.
What raises eyebrows is that inspite of a good budgetary allocation, MCD has failed to rein in illegal usage of gardens in the city. The zone-wise list of encroachments in gardens, accessed by The Sunday Standard, reveals some alarming figures.
A total of 901 gardens are officially encroached in Delhi, out of which 370 are in the Rohini zone, 158 in Shahdara (South), 30 in Shahdara (North), 52 in Karol Bagh, 135 in West Delhi, a low of 18 in Central Delhi, five in Najafgarh, a high of 78 in the posh Civil Lines, 41 in South Delhi, 10 in Sadar Paharganj, only three in the city zone and one in Narela.
S S Kandpal, MCD’s director of horticulture, said, “I agree that there are encroachments of all kinds in gardens. Some of them also go unreported. MCD routinely takes measures to remove encroachments” “There are some encroachments under the garb of erecting religious structures, which are very difficult to remove as they may hurt religious sensibilities. Hence, many a times, the problem is not as easy to tackle as it seems,” said a senior officer of the horticulture department.
Documents accessed by The Sunday Standard also show that the horticulture department of MCD is currently facing a manpower crunch. Among others, 960 posts of gardners are lying vacant. Moreover, out of 14,596 parks, as many as 3,100 parks don’t have direct water supply. The horticulture department uses as many as 40 water tanks to supply water to these parks for maintenance.