Vandalism in the Aravalli Biodiversity Park: Reflecting apathy towards shared public resources

The Aravalli Biodiversity Park is meant to be a space where one can indulge in communion with Nature, engage in physical exercise or just simply spend some quite time away from the cacophony of a bustling metropolis. No fee is charged upon entry, nor is access restricted to any area within, in tune with our belief that it is a native forest garden meant to be used as a shared public resource, for the benefit of one and all. Despite so much freedom given to all and sundry for using the Park, a serious issue has raised its head. It has been observed that some citizens are misusing this freedom to give vent to the base desire of destroying that which does not directly belong to them. For a moment’s worth of enjoyment, they are taking to vandalizing Park infrastructure in the absence of surveillance.

Built over months, destroyed in seconds

The team members working day in and day out, corporates putting in funds and sending employees to volunteer in drives, laborers working their sweat off in the upkeep –setting up a biodiversity Park is a labour, resource and time intensive process.  The maintenance requires a lot of careful planning and hours of hard work, most of the times under a harsh, unforgiving sun.

Imagine to our utter shock, when we come upon our beloved amphitheater to find tiles lining the steps being ripped off clean, or pummeled to bits. To find our beautiful stone lamps unceremoniously beheaded, their lanterns gone. The gabion stone compound wall, a marvel of innovative design, broken into or smashed.

According to the Park supervisor, certain uncouth elements from the nearby suburban areas enter the Park with the pretext of spending some quality time. They then indulge in these acts of vandalism, with the stone steps in the amphitheater (designated for seating) being the most common target. Why they do it is a matter of pure conjecture, but of what little we know about it as of now, it seems that it is the youth who take to doing so probably to give vent to their frustration or to satisfy a false sense of bravado. Such immaturity belies a lack of understanding of the value of such infrastructure and its preservation.

The rigors of Nature and the damage done by adult male Nilgai notwithstanding (albeit innocently, they can’t be blamed), it is saddening to see the apathy of some sections of society towards such a wonderful resource, something that helps salve the aches and pains of city life.

Amphitheater_vandalism

 

Various steps have been taken by the Park administration to curtail this behavior, but to no avail. The details are discussed in the next section.

Remedial measures rendered ineffective

The team members have invested hours into brainstorming to find solutions to curtail this rampant destruction of Park infrastructure. What is of graver concern is the fact that the miscreants, whether new or returning, seem to show no remorse after having indulged in it once, as the tiles of the amphitheater have been destroyed scores of times. At some places, such as the tiles lining the edge of the stage, the tiles have been uprooted so many times that the supervisor is left with no choice than to simply give up replacing them.

Stringent measures to keep these miscreants at bay range from verbal warnings to setting up protective structures around the perimeter. Three sides of the amphitheater have walls lined with barbed wire. On top of that, places from a miscreant may get a vantage point to climb in have additionally been reinforced with thickly growing thorny bushes. However, a slope at the northwest corner adjacent to the stage, which provides a slim down facing gully for anybody to sneak in, is not amenable for construction and hence is vulnerable. The bushes seem to be less of a deterrent too though, because once they have dried, they snap easily and can be cleared if the person has covered their palms.

Necessary but shameful: introduce stifling countermeasures

In the face of such blatant disregard of the Park infrastructure, the team is usually left with no choice but to introduce countermeasures that can prove an effective deterrent. These often come at the cost of losing the freedom to use the infrastructure, something that we never intended to do in the first place.

A slew of countermeasures currently under deliberation include the introduction of a hefty fine, if found inside the premises of the amphitheater unless allowed entry, putting up signs warning people explicitly not to indulge in vandalism in the Park and putting up posters exhorting people to stop indulging in such activities.

Putting these countermeasures may cloak the amphitheater with a forbidding aura, marring the experience visitors to the Park may otherwise have had here if they behaved responsibly.

This is not a tirade, it’s an alarm call to the collective urban conscience

Something that is five years in the making and yet far from complete is sure a sensitive issue for the people who have helped make it, one sapling at a time. The absence of forests in the cityscape of most of the metropolises in the country is already beginning to be felt badly. The more our green cover dwindles, the more it impacts various aspects of people’s lives, be it water shortage, reducing air quality, increasing ambient temperatures, erratic weather patterns and diseases reaching epidemic proportions. In the reign of such wide spread insensitivity to our natural resources, it is high time we woke up to what was good for us.

The Aravali Biodiversity Park is yours, as is the responsiblity to maintain it. Help us keep it beautiful, take care of it.