Climbing the tower at Anna Nagar Park is easily one of the most exciting childhood memories for E Sendil Kumar to this day. For Sendil, Managing Director of Nova Lifespace Private Limited who still resides in Anna Nagar, the mesmerising view of the entire area from the 12-storied tower was a much better spectacle and brought greater thrill than all those television shows during his formative years.
The Anna Nagar Tower Park was a quick and refreshing getaway from the city’s hustle and bustle for many residents. With kids on Tennikoit rings, elders discussing politics, friends in a huddle and couples unwinding, Anna Nagar Tower park hosted a variety of leisure activities.
But today, Sendil’s son shows no enthusiasm for the park. The tower remains closed, after a suicide was reported here a few years back. The lush greenery in the park has almost disappeared, the amenities in the child-play area lie defunct or outdated. Like most of other parks maintained by the Greater Chennai Corporation, this important landmark of Chennai too is slowly losing its lustre.
Turning the tables
But there is new-found hope in the air. The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has recently launched PASUMAI (Park Adoption Scheme for Urban Landscape Maintenance and Improvement) that enables large corporations, private sector organisations, residential welfare associations and other members of the public to maintain parks and other green spaces.
Sendil Kumar has adopted the Anna Nagar Tower park to give it a fresh lease of life. “GCC has made the procedure so easy through PASUMAI. The adoption process was completed in less than a week after I expressed interest,” said Sendil, who took charge a month ago. Shrubs are being planted at the park now and a watchman has been deployed to ensure the child play area is used only by children, not adults. A team of 18 employees are working to rejuvenate the tower park.
Sendil also hopes to reopen the tower, after installing a proper fence to prevent any kind of untoward incidents. “I want the young generation to experience the beauty of the tower park,” he says.
Nova Lifespace has also adopted the central island at Anna Nagar Roundtana and a 3-kilometre central median that stretches from the roundtana to Thirumangalam. The four-directional clock at the roundtana would malfunction frequently due to mechanical glitches. Nova Lifespace has repaired it and cleaned up the fountain.
“We had been trying for years to adopt the iconic traffic island with the clock tower opposite Express Avenue. What was a failed effort of years fructified after PASUMAI came into force,” says Reji Jose, President of Rotary Club of Royapettah. Having adopted the traffic island days back, the club is now working on repairing the clocktower.
“We are taking measured steps. Painting the clock tower and setting up a well-laid garden are the top priorities,” Reji Jose added.
|Green spaces||No of green spaces under adoption|
(as on January 7 2020)
|Total no of parks in Chennai: 702||97|
|Total no of center medians: 99||20|
|Total no of traffic islands: 99||10|
|Total no of roadside parks: 163||4|
The highlight of the park adoption scheme launched in December 2020 is the waiver of the caution deposit by adopting organisations. In the earlier scheme of things, organisations had to pay a refundable caution deposit of Rs 50,000 and a fee per square feet based on the guideline value in the locality. It has been waived off now and PASUMAI is a zero deposit scheme.
“Those who adopt the park will anyways be incurring regular costs on men and material for maintenance. So, we have waived off the caution deposits as an incentive,” said V Bhuvaneswaran, Executive Engineer, Parks department, GCC.
Making the scheme sustainable
The scheme induces a sense of ownership among the citizens who adopt the green spaces of Chennai. “Adoption of parks ensures the participation of civil society and reduces the financial burden on GCC,” explained Deputy Commissioner, Works, Meghanath Reddy.
The custodian of open spaces in the city, the GCC usually mainstains them in three ways: through direct maintainence by the corporation (the nodal agency); through an adoption scheme, or by floating tenders and awarding contracts for maintainence. Even though there was a scheme to adopt parks earlier, awareness on the same was missing.
To promote PASUMAI, GCC officials wrote letters to industrial bodies, corporates and private entities encouraging them to adopt green spaces in their neighbourhood as part of their CSR activities. Under the scheme, corporates/organisations are also permitted to place name plates on the property. So, it is a win-win situation for both the adopters, who may be looking at brand creation, and GCC that is struggling with a shortage of manpower and funds.
To make the scheme sustainable, GCC will initiate a third party audit to rate the city’s parks maintained under all the three routes mentioned above. “The audit will consist of environmentalists and citizens who would rate a park across various parameters. We are looking at colour coding the parks based on their performance,” added Meghanath Reddy.
The adoption process and guidelines
- Self help groups, NGOs, corporates, organisations, RWAs and citizens can express their interest to the GCC in adopting a park or other green spaces.
- Those who are interested to adopt a green space can write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include why you are interested to adopt the space and what are your plans to beautify it when expressing interest.
- The Commissioner of parks processes the request.
- GCC conducts a background enquiry to assess the credibility of the organisation. The organisation’s financial stability and experience are taken into consideration.
- A formal agreement is signed by the two parties after the organisation is found to satisfy all norms.
- Those who want to adopt green spaces should adhere to 50 odd guidelines, which is shared with them once an expression of interest is received. For example, the parties cannot claim any equipment from these spaces. No changes in existing structures or erection of new structures may be done without the consent of the Commissioner.
- Organisations or individuals that adopt the green spaces must take responsibility to maintain them. Corporation staff will be dismissed immediately after the organisations take over the maintenance. The adopter must take charge of garbage management, watering the plants, providing necessary safety equipment, deploying the security personnel etc.
- No fee should be charged from the park-users. At the same time, no form of donations should be accepted.
- Parks or any green spaces can be adopted for a period of one year. The renewal for adoption is done based on performance.
- If the maintenance is not satisfactory, or in case of any irregularity, the GCC Commissioner and other authorised officials have the power to cancel the contract any time. The party cannot seek compensation.
PASUMAI: A solution to shrinking greenery?
The new scheme has the potential to provide a strong and effective solution to Chennai’s shrinking greenery. Chennai has only 2% of green cover, as opposed to the requirement of 33% under the National Forest Policy, according to a report in The Better India.
Parks, traffic islands and central road medians constitute a significant part of green cover in urban spaces such as Chennai. Effective maintenance of these spaces would eventually lead to increase greenery in the city.
In December 2016, the gusty winds of Cyclone Vardah devastated thousands of trees in Chennai. To recover the lost greenery, at least a million trees need to be planted, says Dr Balaji, Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and advisor to the Care Earth Trust. “Park adoption is a feasible idea. The 90 native and five exotic varieties of trees that are suitable for Chennai’s climate should be planted. A sustainable effort can bring back the lost greenery in Chennai,” Dr Balaji said.