Once lush, green and a source of income, this Defence Colony’s central park now lays forgotten with muck and unkempt grass marking its landscape
Defence colony’s central park symbolises, in a way, the impact that Covid-19 has had in our world. Overgrown grass, shrubs untended to, and its carers out of jobs. Renu Pado, is one such man who lost his job here. As we took a stroll in the park, which falls under the authority of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), situated in the middle of the well-to-do neighbourhood of South East Delhi, we met Pado, visibly tired, taking plants to his new employer’s home.
Before the pandemic, this park had been his source of income for six years – it was built over the Kushak drain by the DDA with construction finishing in 2014. Since the pandemic, he along with a few other workers had been called only a couple times by their contractor, when the weeds and grass’ overgrowth had gone out of hand.
Covid, he says, has changed the park. “It never looked like this. Now it’s forgotten. The residents would come here in the evenings for walks, now that doesn’t happen. Now it’s mostly dog walkers, and they too don’t pick up after the dog like they did before, so you’ll see muck everywhere”.
The afternoon we visited, while it wasn’t a time for dog walkers, we saw a few people sitting by themselves, some on their phones, others seemingly in an introspective mood, a guard manning the area.
Its neglect comes even as a petition back in 2015 in the National Green Tribunal had wanted its closure. A brief look at the history of the park shows that it is built on the Kushak drain, is 6.5km-long stormwater drain, carrying, stormwater and sewage from Delhi localities, such as Mehrauli-Badarpur Road, Chirag Dilli, INA, Defence Colony and Pushp Vihar. It then goes on to meet the Barapullah drain near Nizamuddin West and then flows into the Yamuna River. The petition by a resident, Rajeev Suri had asked for “the restitution and restoration of Kushak Nala following Reverse Environmental Impact Study carried out by an independent body”.
The petition claimed that “the DDA undertook work of covering the Kushak drain without obtaining necessary environmental clearance, covered part of it and converted the same into a park, leaving the covered drain below to suffer negative environmental impacts.”
“Furthermore, the Applicant contends that the DDA had without foresight and vision concretized the floor of the drain thereby disturbing the natural gradient and impacting the natural flow of the water through the drain; and this has resulted in stagnation of water and creation of cesspools and breeding home for disease and pestilence…there are no arrangements made for release of gases generated below the covered portion of the drain and gases leaked through inspection trap on the covered portion of the drain have adverse health impacts on the visitors to the park.”
The NGT went on to reject the contentions. Now, as it stands, the park has several lids of the drain open, releasing gases.
A resident here told us, on the condition of anonymity, that despite several calls and letters to the SDMC (the municipal division under whose authority and care the park lies) they have been ignored. “They have no damn money. Look at the shameful plight. That is where I used to walk myself. I have failed to reach out to these people”, he told Patriot.
“Post Covid is when the SDMC stopped maintaining the park, but the association was taking care of it until about 4-6 months ago. But now they are fatigued, we are volunteers, it’s a huge space to cover. Our calls fall on deaf ears… We have even approached the LG in writing, the commissioner but who cares?”
As we ended our conversation he said, “Defence colony is occupied by senior retired soldiers, who were living happily until the SDMC decided to build this nalah cover. And now dog poo and tall grass co-exist”.
(Cover: SDMC has not looked after the park since Covid, we were told. Letters and calls have been ignored tells one resident)