Lying unwatched: Bengaluru’s 1067 parks and playgrounds

For the last two years, a park-cum-playground in 30th main in JP Nagar 6th phase has lost almost a third of its area. This part of the site, which was designated for the park, was encroached for the construction of two temples. Today only the playground remains and the site itself is known after one of the temples. While one temple is a permanent structure and almost 75% of its work is complete, the other is a temporary structure.

Playground attached the park in J P Nagar 6th phase has been taken over for building temples and fenced off. Pic: Navya P K

Col Seshadri (Retd), a resident of the area, says, "This was a BDA Civic Amenity site. For over 20 years there have been disputes about how it would be used and three years back it was decided to be used as park and playground. Two years back the temple construction started; we have been complaining to various authorities, but there have been no steps for demolishing them," he says.

But the state has a law that mandates civic bodies to publicise information about all parks every year, to accept objections from public on any information listed and to demolish illegal structures based on these complaints.

The Karnataka Parks, Play-fields and Open spaces (Preservation and Regulation act), 1985, says that the local authority should publicise information about these spaces annually in a gazette and made available to public. But the law has remained only on paper so far.

Though BBMP was supposed to submit the report for the last 25 years, it is only in 2010 that it has taken this initiative. No survey was done after the formation of BBMP in 2007 from the erstwhile BMP and peripheral areas. There is also no updated information since the formation of new wards and zones.

Once BBMP submits the information to the government, citizens can raise objections in case of any errors or complaints – for instance, if a park has been encroached or has been converted for a different purpose.

The temples use the children’s area in the playground to dump garbage. Pic: Navya P K

Last year, BBMP’s estate department submitted the data in two stages – one in May and second in June – but public has been largely unaware of the information. According to the law, after BBMP submits this preliminary information, public has three months to file objections. After considering objections, government issues a final notification approving the information.

"For instance, if someone has encroached a park, we serve him a notice. If he has any documents to prove ownership, the case will go to court. Otherwise BBMP can demolish his property," says M Devarajappa, Assistant Commissioner at BBMP (Estate).

Currently the information is published only in the official gazette, and not on BBMP’s website.

BBMP’s Horticulture Department publishes a list of city’s parks here. The list, updated on June 2010, names plots – both developed and undeveloped – that are marked for parks. Mohamad Ali Pinjar, Superintendent of Horticulture (Yelahanka zone) says that the list does not include playgrounds and other open spaces. The Horticulture Department lists 1079 parks alone, higher than the Estate Department’s listing of 1067 properties (which includes parks, play grounds and open spaces) for the city. Estate Department officials say that they would have an exhaustive list once the ongoing survey by their department is complete. Horticulture Department publishes more information regarding parks here.

This year, the only objection was from the government itself, where it had asked for a clarification, says Mujibullah Zaffari, Deputy Commissioner at the BBMP Estate department. "According to the law, this has to be published in gazette only. Public would not know about it, like most other government information," he says.

However, the data in its present form itself may not be useful. The prescribed format asks for the names of the parks/open spaces, the number of new such spaces that came during the year, and details of action taken by BBMP for maintaining the areas. In the list given by BBMP, only the names of the parks and open spaces have been mentioned; all other information is missing.

Zaffari says that the prescribed format is not clear. "I have submitted a different format – which gives the dimensions of parks, exact location etc – for the government’s approval; the current format is not usable. Also there are no surveyors to give accurate information," he says.

The department has now appointed 15 surveyors; 1067 parks, play-fields and open spaces have been surveyed and 786 of these have been published, says Zaffari.

Citizen Matters has copies of both of BBMP’s gazetted notifications of 2010. The first one, of 3rd May 2010 lists has 679 items (parks, play-fields or open spaces). Even if this list was published online it is incomprehensible to citizens because it contains no clear locality or ward level information conistently for all entries. The second list of 388 items gazetted in June 2010 is a little better – it has ward names for each park, play-field or open space. 

UDD aware of the malaise

A senior official at the Urban Development Department (UDD), who does not wish to be named, says that the law itself is inadequate. "High levels of encroachment and wastage of public money can be prevented only if public and NGOs get information about what’s there. Data on boundaries, measurements, assets within parks and investment made, should be published. As prescribed in the law, it should be updated annually and presented in the BBMP Council for public consumption," he says.

Another issue is that BBMP is responsible only for the parks coming under its jurisdiction. BDA publishes information about parks under its jurisdiction in its website. Information on parks and open spaces is available at http://www.bdabangalore.org/bdaapprovedprivate.htm. (BDA gives information on Civic Amenity sites at http://www.bdabangalore.org/civicone.htm).

BDA Commissioner Bharat Lal Meena says that public can give their complaints about these sites, if any. 

"The law does not assign responsibility to any particular body, so any organization that has parks under its jurisdiction, gives information separately. The responsibility has to be fixed on one body so that all information can be collected and published in media," says the UDD official.

About Navya P K 241 Articles

Navya P K is a former senior staff journalist at Citizen Matters, and a freelance journalist based in Kerala.

6 Comments

  1. There is a park in HRBR layout Ist Block Kalayan Nagar Bangalore. Just behind the post office of kalayan Nagar in Banaswadi area.
    CA 87 site still there are so many problems it is a BDA property but not maintained all the surrounding houses have lot of problems due to non maintenance
    Either the govt or pvt sector can do something for beautification of this areas. Thanks
    Kumar

  2. A clear example of one more number is shakti Ganapathy temple in Bsk 3rd stage, srividyanagara, where residents went for PIL, commissioner, BBMp promised the court park will be completed, but only half of it has been done. Remaining major part is forcibly held by temple trust as an encroachment in spite of recent supreme court directives. Clear vandalism, political interference, money power!

  3. You can a visit a park near minerva circle bbmp has made it has a garbage dumping centre and old stone collecting centre , most of the parks and play grounds are not maintained well
    in vinayknagar of shanthinagar a play ground is provided with some childrens playing equipments but none of the equipments are in good condition and playing area is dumped with garbage

    ARS KUMAR. BE. LLB. MA JOURANLISM
    SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND JOURNALIST

  4. To add to what Solomon says-
    Parks are locked during day time. The caretaker and his family enjoy the park during this “maintenance time”.

  5. BBMP only shirks responsibilities and the greed of the corporators is obnoxious. Divyasree Builders stopped maintaining the Richmond Park and BBMP supposedly took over the maintainance. However, three months after they were elected the new Corporators refused to maintain the park and advised the local CWA to do the needful from their own resources, which the CWA does. BUT…. the contractors and sweepers and gardeners and plants etc are to be procured only from BBMP. CWA has NO SAY.
    The Akkithimmanahalli playground has now been usurped by the corporators to hold handloom exhibitions and weddings!!!!! This is downright robbery from the children of the area who have no where else to play. Can someone help? Or advise on how to get help?

  6. BBMP parks are useless. Except for Morning or evening walkers the park does not allow children to play games, no pets are permitted, and no picnics can be organized in that area. I was stopped from carrying a bottle of water inside the park for my little daughter. I dont understand why it is called a play park.

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