If Shahjahan were alive today, he wouldn’t have recognised the Shalimar Bagh he had established 350 years ago. For then, the gardens— from which the locality derives its name— were lush, green.
Today, they are car parking lots, they have been encroached upon by temples and residents alike. The exotic plants that once grew have given way to hard, packed earth from which nothing sprouts—not even weeds. What remains are parks—without any names, just numbers.
Park numbers 41, 48, 55, 56, 58, and 69 are just six of the numerous parks encroached upon—either by temples or the residents themselves.
“Small parks, like the one in the BJ block, another behind the Arya Samaj Mandir and between the BJ (Paschimi) and BD block, have become parking lots for the adjacent housing complexes,” says Ashish Anand (46), a B-block resident.
“People are converting what they refer to as ‘unused’ parks into parking lots. One of my cousin’s sons had an accident recently, when he was playing in the park and a car entering it drove over his leg,” says Vinay Rai (34), a C-block resident.
Temples are the most prolific encroachers. “The Shri Ram mandir in the BJ block is a perfect specimen of unchallenged encroachment,” Anand alleges.
It’s the same with the Durga Mandir in BP block. “The temple’s boundary has extended into the park behind it,” Aryan Singh (26), a resident of B block, says. “The mandir started using park no. 55 behind it for cooking. It has now become an extension of the temple with most functions held there,” says Rai.
“B-block is home to 300 families and has the least green cover,” says Dr A.B Ghosh (85), Shalimar Bagh Action Group president and a A-block resident since 1979. “It is disheartening to witness what political patronage and greed for land have accomplished in the last three decades,” he adds.
This, says Anand, is equivalent to pulling a plastic bag over their children’s heads. “They are negatively affecting not only their kids but also others’ by destroying the space meant for them to play, and their health by mowing down crucial green cover for want of parking space or faith,” he added.
“We have directed the horticultural department to look into the matter,” said Deep Mathur, Director, Publicity Department, MCD.
R.K. Singhal, Chairman, Standing Committee, MCD said, “We are waiting for the weather to clear up and believe that the green cover in Shalimar Bagh will be restored like never before within the next 20 days.”
“We are removing encroachments of all kinds — these will also be removed,” said K.S Mehra, Commissioner, MCD.