Dried, stunted: Vertical gardens turn city eyesores, force rethink by MCD | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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Dried, stunted: Vertical gardens turn city eyesores, force rethink by MCD

Jun 25, 2024 05:46 AM IST

In last few years, these vertical gardens have faced repeated vandalism as well as dearth of sufficient watering and maintenance

Empty rows of black plastic containers, brown grass, dead plants and unkempt walls mar the spaces allocated for vertical gardens under city flyovers by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), as beautification efforts have now turned an eyesore, as found by HT during checks.

Dying and dead plants in the vertical gardens under Arica Avenue flyover in the city on Monday. (Vipin Kumar/HT)
Dying and dead plants in the vertical gardens under Arica Avenue flyover in the city on Monday. (Vipin Kumar/HT)

Civic officials blamed soaring summer temperatures, saying it was difficult to maintain the gardens amid the heat. They are currently rethinking the strategy for the gardens, mulling to add native climber plants.

Launched by the civic body in 2018, the vertical gardens were aimed to beautify the encroached spaces under flyovers, add greenery and reduce the urban heat island effect. However, in last few years, these green installations have faced repeated vandalism as well as dearth of sufficient watering and maintenance. The unprecedented heatwave faced by the city in the last month has further damaged the plants on a much larger scale.

During a spot check on Monday, HT found that the spaces under the Africa Avenue T-point flyover, Munirka flyover, IIT-Delhi, Savitri flyover and Nehru Place are crying for attention. Most of the plants in these spots failed to survive in Delhi’s intense heatwave.

The area beneath the flyover at Africa Avenue intended for a vertical garden is instead littered with plastic waste, debris and encroached upon by people as of June 24, 2024. (Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)
The area beneath the flyover at Africa Avenue intended for a vertical garden is instead littered with plastic waste, debris and encroached upon by people as of June 24, 2024. (Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)

At the Africa Avenue T-point, a majority of the plastic pots were empty and plants were missing. Dead plants dotted the section towards the IIT-Delhi hostel with the boundary wall of the beautified space as well as the footpath in front being encroached upon by homeless people. The scene was similar at Munirka flyover where the vertical greens were missing and the space underneath the flyover was littered with debris and waste. At Nehru Place and Savitri flyovers, most of the plants on the cocopeat base along the pillars have dried up and the withered shrubs resembled brown bundles of dry hay. Green plants in these vertical installations were only an aberration.

Unlike the greens, the statues, art installations and plants rooted in the ground at many of these locations have managed to survived. In the past, the corporation has also faced problems in making vertical gardens survive due to lack of sunlight under the flyover carriageway.

An official on condition of anonymity said that the corporation even tried experimenting with UV light to compensate for the lack of sunlight at the Africa Avenue flyover in 2018, but it did not yield encouraging results.

A senior municipal official associated with the project said that corporation will now promote usage of creepers and climbers instead of using water intensive plastic pots.

“There are more than 20 public spaces and flyovers where the erstwhile North, South and East corporations installed the vertical gardens. Not only do these installations require constant watering but are also labour intensive and in need of high maintenance. We will use local creepers and climbers in their place to achieve this objective,” said the official.

The under-flyover vertical garden at Savitri lies abandoned, with dead plants marring the once-green space. (Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)
The under-flyover vertical garden at Savitri lies abandoned, with dead plants marring the once-green space. (Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)

Faiyaz Khudsar, scientist in-charge of DDA’s biodiversity parks programme in Delhi, said that the pots in such vertical gardens are made of plastic and the soil amount is too little for the plants to withstand extreme climate. “The soil and pots get heated and the root system cannot support the plant even with drip irrigation. Plants need deeper soil in such intense heatwave. They have an integral relationship with microbes in the soil and agencies should now move on to native climber plants,” he added.

Khudsar said that in the coming years the frequency of extreme weather events is likely to intensify and more climate resilient plants should be promoted.

HT had earlier reported that the corporation plans to expand and convert the Roshanara nursery into the largest such facility in the city. For the purpose of supplying this new series of climbers, the horticulture department of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is setting up a new creeper and climber section at the Roshanara nursery.

“We will add three sections ahead of this monsoon for fruit-bearing plants, creepers and climbers and succulents. The creepers and climbers section will be used to cultivate the saplings of Madhumalati, Japanese honeysuckle and philodendron splendid, which will be used for greening of spaces under and along the flyovers instead of potted vertical gardens that are much harder to maintain,” the official added.

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