Lucknow’s obsession with beautification

Another mega park, but what are the real benefits?

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav shared this photo on his Facebook page yesterday, with the title- “I would like to share with you the first exclusive pictures of Janeshwar Mishra Park. This 400 acre Global Standard park has a beautiful walkway, water bodies, jogging track, cycling track, landscaping and much more.”

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This park, being developed in the Gomti Nagar area of Lucknow, is modeled on London’s Hyde Park and will cost Rs 168 crore to build. Akhilesh Yadav takes pride in highlighting the green-ness of this grandiose scheme from the erstwhile Chief Minister Mayawati’s much-touted Ambedkar Park, which was widely criticized for taking the form of an infrastructure project strewn with stone structures and little greenery. A news item says the park will have “beautiful landscapes, two huge ponds spread over 38 acres, golf course, horse riding trail, lakes, sports centre, gymnasium, cycle track, jogging track, theme gardens, children’s play area, lawns etc.”

I grew up in Lucknow and have strong linkages with the city. My attachment to Lucknow urges me to ask three questions.

1- Do these large park projects really mean the creation of city commons? Or are they exclusive gated spaces more accessible to the elite and subtly less accessible to the poor?

2- Whose land was this and the older park developed on? Were there slum evictions involved? Akhilesh Yadav has made a press statement that implies that the park was conceived to “save the land from land mafia”? What does that even mean?

3- How does a city that desperately needs affordable housing justify a project that not only consumes a large tract of valuable land but also is sure to push property values and housing costs further up?

To offer a background, Lucknow has the dubious reputation of being a city that is in denial of the existence of slums! The municipal corporation doesn’t report any slums in the Census 2011! Yet, the State urban Development Authority estimated in 2000 that 11% of the city lived in slums. In the absence of any substantial addition in the housing stock of EWS/LIG homes in the city and with continued increase in urban population (decadal growth rate has been around 40% for the past decade), one can only imagine that those living in substandard housing with insecure tenure would have increased, not come down to zero.

A press analysis of the park

A press analysis of the park. Sourced from 20twentytwo.blogspot.in

My take

While I very much appreciate the creation of  green infrastructure and open space in the city, I see the park as another proof that city governments in India are obsessed with beautification projects and have very little vision or interest in what the city actually needs. I would have much appreciated the integration of such a project with meaningful amenities for the city. Golf courses (the city already has a functional golf club) and horse riding are clearly exclusive. Why not a govt-run public sports complex instead, open air gyms and an urban forest, not manicured lawns? I would be curious to see what the park’s designers (I believe they are from IIT Kanpur for hydrology and SPA, New Delhi for design and layout) have to say about its impacts on the city’s air pollution or groundwater levels. Despite its multiple ‘green’ features, I would like to ask whether their plan relates to the city’s needs for environmental sustainability. Also, was there any public consultation on what kind of public space the residents want or need?

Plea to Akhilesh

To the CM, I would like to offer a piece of advise. Move the propaganda around these mega park projects moves beyond beautification and to the real stuff. I know you will not answer my provocative questions about urban poverty and elitism, but do ask your PR department to talk about the real benefits of this park if indeed there are any. We, the public, would be very happy to know how this beautiful park will contribute to a more sustainable, economically strong and socially inclusive Lucknow.

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About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on October 29, 2014, in Urban Planning & Policy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Until three months ago, I was in living in Lucknow. I totally agree with your viewpoint and I would like to add my two cent worth of it – parks and open spaces are all fine. How do you make sure these spaces are accessible to people? All the four years I lived in this city, I observed that families – especially women (for that’s what I mean by families) – rarely ever stepped out of the cordon of their male relatives. Post-evening, really rarely so. If at all, then they do so going from one set of confines into another, always escorted by male family members. There isn’t much scope for hanging out. There isn’t much scope for fitness purposes either. Yes, men may benefit from these arrangements and they usually do. As a result, most public parks are hotbeds of nuisance. I’d suggest UP government diverted its resources into providing good public as well as private transport. Lucknow is yet to wake up to radio taxis. And mercy! tuk-tuks are non-existent, private ones that is. Those that are plying are all plying on sharing basis and you’ll find yourself squeezed by 12-14 other bodies around you; if you are a woman, you can bet you are doing this out of some degree of desperation and frustration and constraint of some sort – logistical or financial or practical.

  2. Well said and a neat analysis Mukta.
    This is yet another example of how our governments fails in urban planning. I guess nobody has either questioned the objectives of this project. Is this of any use to common man. This is almost equivalent to Mayawati’s statue project. Most of our leaders lacks a proper vision and they just do things for the sake of it. The only thing that revolves inside their minds is how they can leverage the votes of the people in the next 5 years. In doing so most of them miss the real problems.

  3. That’s the trouble with politicians, they overlook development in terms of solid housing, greenery, violate FSI to indulge in rhetoric. Interesting questions raised.
    Btw will mail you in the evening.

  4. Reblogged this on the city as a river and commented:
    Interesting article on beutification over at ramblinginthecity.wordpress.com

  5. Reblogged this on Rashid's Blog and commented:
    Readers , the post raises some disturbing questions and i like disturbing questions. 🙂 . I likes the points about slums especially. Please read and ponder.

  1. Pingback: Ramblings of the year gone by: Recap 2014 | ramblinginthecity

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