Morning walkers at the Indian Botanic Garden damage plants and pollute the premises, alleged the garden authorities on Monday.
The allegation came a day after a group of morning walkers forcibly entered the compound and damaged its gate.
“The garden is an arboretum, where rare, endangered, threatened plant species are protected and propagated. It is a gene sanctuary,” said H.S. Debnath, the joint director of the garden. He rued he was bogged down with issues that had little relevance to the main purpose of the garden.
“Morning walkers here claim they are stakeholders of the garden. Yet, we find them damaging plants and trees, hanging from the branches and walking on the lawns, which is prohibited, carrying plastic to a no-plastic zone, plucking leaves, grass and plants. many walkers leaning on trees, particularly on the nux vomica tree, believing it would cure them of ailments,” the director complained.
The garden, which was closed to visitors on Monday for periodic maintenance, had to let in morning walkers for fear of a rerun of Sunday’s vandalism, said the authorities. “Today I found the stem of a rare bamboo species lying torn on the ground,” said Pushpa Kumari, a scientist at the garden. “I had collected this plant from deep inside Arunachal Pradesh after spending days there and at a cost of Rs 30,000.”
The entry of morning walkers also hinders the work of the garden staff, whose duty begins at 6am and ends at 2pm. “How can the garden staff and scientists, who nurture and nurse the plants do their work when an army of 2,000 walkers descend on the garden every morning?” questioned Debnath.
Environment activist Subhas Datta condemned Sunday’s vandalism but also felt citizens had a right to health and hygiene and should, therefore, be allowed to walk in the garden. He pointed out that in 2010, it was the morning walkers that had alerted the garden authorities about the poisoning of fish in the Leram Lake, one of the garden’s 24 water bodies.
The garden, in its 225th year, is besieged with a host of issues that are diverting the focus away from its core function of conserving and propagating plants, said the authorities.
Another problem is that residents of neighbouring houses pollute the canal along the inner edge of the garden by making breaches in the boundary wall to let drain water enter from Satyen Bose Road, said the garden authorities.
Metro found 18 breaches in the south-west boundary wall to let in drain water. The inside of the walls bear telltale marks of sewer water having seeped through the holes. Garbage and plastic materials were seen lying beside the boundary wall.
A number of the neighbouring houses have portions extending into the garden compound. These are all illegal constructions, said sources.
The incident of contamination of the lake water was investigated by the pollution control board, which found it had occurred because of unauthorised construction both by the Howrah Municipal Corporation and citizens.
On July 24, 2006, in a meeting at the district magistrate’s office, the corporation, police and other authorities had decided to decongest the gate, demolish unauthorised construction on one side and stop the flow of sewer water into the canal that runs along the inner edge of the garden.
None of these measures has been implemented so far.
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