At a time when the city’s green cover is shrinking steadily, parks in the city could potentially provide an oasis in the midst of the concrete, apart from a much-needed sanctuary and leisure spot for the citizenry. According to data in the public domain, the city has 525 parks though a look at their locations reveals an extremely skewed distribution across different regions and zones.
Chennai is divided into three zones — North (Zones 1 to 5), Central (Zones 6 to 10) and South (Zones 11 to 15). While the central and southern regions have 202 and 204 parks respectively, the northern region has just 117.
Surrounded by several industries including the North Chennai Thermal Power Station, EID Parry, Coromandel Cement and Kothari Fertilisers, the northern region has anyway undergone environmental degradation to a great extent in the last few decades. A majority of the residents in North Chennai are daily wage workers in factories or fishermen, who often toil in arduous or challenging conditions to earn a living. Where do these people, and their children, unwind or spend their leisure time?
We walked through the dusty lanes and salty fishing hamlets in this part of the city to get a sense:
Seetha has fond memories of how pristine her neighbourhood was some years ago. “It was not always so heavily congested and polluted. Women and children had ample space to relax and play,” she reminisces.
Data from Care Earth Trust, a research organisation, shows that Adyar zone has 30% of Chennai’s greenery, followed by Teynampet and Anna Nagar. But why is there such a disparity between the two parts of the city?
“In general, the citizens of North Chennai are not proactive, due to which development activities are slow in that part of the city,” a corporation official said.
Can the residents of North Chennai expect more parks to come up as the civic body is purportedly trying to increase green cover?
No one says we don’t want trees, but it appears that trees have no friends left among the various civic authorities in Chennai, as they go about brutally hacking, cutting and uprooting carefully nurtured trees.
Chennai certainly appears to lag behind when it comes to heritage conservation. The latest metro to steal a march over it is Kolkata, which is close to completing the restoration of two magnificent structures, of the colonial era. Are beach memorials and commemorative arches the only legacy we want to leave behind?