Empty bottles and gutka pouches on the ground, pile of garbage in the corner, broken benches and small patches of dry grass on an otherwise brown field.
It is hard to believe that this little park at Block D-2/A of Vasant Vihar in south Delhi has ever received beauty treatment from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).
There are some remains of the beautification drive though. Defunct water fountain that the residents find “hideous” and a row of dirty sandstone benches, that rarely see human company.
This is just one of the 50 big and small parks in Vasant Vihar. Most of the parks in the locality have similar stories to share. The ones that are in good shape are those cared for by the residents.
“There is no water for the park and that is why it doesn’t have any greenery,” said Karan Chopra, whose house is next to the park. “Instead of constructing these fountains and benches, the money could have been used to provide water facilities.”
For the residents, it is like being bestowed an unwanted bounty.
For the last few years, the residents' welfare association of the block has been asking for rainwater harvesting projects, but instead they got fountains that didn’t work and benches on which nobody sat.
M.M. Rana (84), an architect who did the landscaping for Nehru Park, Buddha Jayanti Park and Shanti Van in Delhi, lives in Vasant Vihar.
He says the fountains are a joke.
“Instead of piling our parks with these fountains and benches, the MCD should have done something about the water supply,” he said.
According to the corporation, each fountain cost more than Rs. 2 lakh and the sandstone benches cost about Rs. 2,000 each. One park in Block A-8 has 55 benches.
“The park looked like a cemetery of benches. The MCD bought them and didn’t know where to put them,” said a resident who didn’t wish to be identified. “Then they moved out about 30 benches from here.”
The corporation now plans to dismantle the fountains and limit the number of benches in the parks. The MCD has already built 650 water fountains at different parks across the Capital at a conservative cost of Rs. 1.3 crore.
There was no data available for the number of sandstone benches built.
The fund for constructing the fountains and benches came from the MLA’s Local Area Development Fund.
According to data collected through right to information by an NGO, Satark Nagrik Sangathan, Rs. 42.51 crore was allocated from the MLA Local Area Development Fund for improvement of parks in Delhi between 2004 and 2007.
A huge chunk of this amount was used in building fountains, benches, designer gates, boundary walls, rain shelters and high mast lights.
“The MLA fund is meant for urgent development work and should be spent in consultation with the residents,” said Anjali Bhardwaj of the NGO.