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Dreaming Challaghatta Bagh - big new lung space for Bangalore

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Park Possible?You may remember reading this last year - Army to close Agara Farm. Each time I am on Inner Ring Road or Sarjapur Road around Agara, I wonder what use is Army putting this vast stretch of Land into. Thanks a million to them, we don't have another middle class slum developing and congesting this area. But if they don't have any serious use planned right now, would they be game to lease it out to us (the citizens) to help create a nice big park cum eco preservation area!? Challaghatta Bagh anyone!?

Here is the stretch of land in question:

Park Possible?

For all the growth that our city has seen, how many more Cubbon parks or Lalbaghs have we created? Though BBMP has done a good job of creating small size parks in many localities, there is need for large and quality lung spaces in our city. Developing recreational areas around lakes would be one way of making new public spaces. But a nice big park so close to Koramangala and Indiranagar could be a nice gift to South/East areas of our city.

You never know, sooner or later, growth pressures could see BBMP/BDA thinking of going to Army for making some use of this land. If we can get a big park done in this area before those pressures arise, we could prevent that from happening.

But, I have very little idea of the plans and use Army has for this land. That Hindu news article had said three things

  • 483-acre Agram Military Farm ... being disbanded
  • Parachute Regiment Training Centre was moved from Agram (probably last year, I don't know exactly when)
  • The Agram farm is likely to house the Army Software Development Centre ... and also a Naval unit

At least from Outer ring Road at Agara, there is no activity visible (for a new Naval Unit, or Software development Center as this news article had said). But you never know. If the Army has any plans for future, they wouldn't lose that right by leasing out this farmland to citizens only for creating open public spaces (with zero or minimal construction).

400 acres of new park land in Bangalore, I am sure we are all going slurp slurp at the prospects. But is it possible at all, or just too ridiculous a dream!? If any Defence folks are reading this, could you add some realism please.

regards,

SB aka Pranav

Comments

Redundancy of Army Establishments in Bangalore

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Most Army Establishments in Bangalore date back from even the 18th century (Madras Sappers) to recent post independence establishments. I really do not think they are of any use to the Army. No one needs 400 acres to set up an Army Software Development Centre. About 5 acres or less would do the trick. Most of the army land should be converted in to totally green areas like JP Park. We could lease out the land that is currently occupied by Chinnaswamy Stadium for establishing foreing embassies which will further boost the international standing of Bengaluru. Please note that I am not against the army. It is just that they are un-neccessarily occupying too much land in the centre of the City. Sometime back the expansion of Pune Airport was stopped by the Army because the Army did not want to part with an inch of it's land. I salute the Armed forces for their integrity and their dedication, but i will not hesitate to call a spade a spade.
psaram42's picture

Blessing in disguise

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It is a blessing in disguise that Bangalore in Deep South was a military head quarters in British days. Bangalore owes a lot to the military land for much needed lung space. It is not a redundancy but a good fortune that India has the luxury of well protected military base in Deep South. During the 1964 war we in Bangalore felt much safer than people near the Border. Mcad, in peace time it is natural for you to feel the redundancy of Military. It is only in war time that you will realize what it takes to have a fine army. Banish the thought of redundancy! I feel that Army should never give Agara Farm land to the government. The farm should be developed as a high tech Army Botanical Garden of sorts and make it open to public at a cost. The army can have its proposed army soft ware development centre and the Naval Unit located inside the Botanical garden.
silkboard's picture

Lung space from Army, for people

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First of all, we don't know the latest status of this land, and not clear if this dream is at all possible. However, there is no need to hand this over to the government. Army could build botanical garden or open air museum (basically, some public space) via partnership with citizens/NGOs or government/BBMP itself. It could take the land back whenever the need arises. But if its not being used, why not do something for Bangalore. If government wants to do more than that, then, with creation of lung space as the sole objective and criteria, BBMP or state government can have a land swap program to compensate Defence establishments with land on the outskirts. True, we are thankful to the defence establishments for most of the lung space visible today in the city. without them, we would have vendors hawkers and shops creating entropy across all those roads. Just see ORR between Ibulur and agara, and then between Ibulur and Marathahalli to realize what I mean. But, Bangalore of 1920s was different. These places were true outskirts. Not anymore. If BBMP can be made to promise that the land will be utilized only for public purposes - lung spaces, recreational facilities, or public transit facilities (say Metro), may be a land-swap program could reshape Bangalore.
psaram42's picture

Belandur Lake

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The Belandur lake also needs to be taken into account.
View Larger Map BBMP should be encouraged to develop this area on an urgent basis, with a PPP model or otherwise. Land swap is a brilliant Idea, should take it forward.
murali772's picture

slurp, slurp

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Slurp, slurp indeed, as far as I am concerned, particularly considering it's just a stone's throw away from where I live. I'll forward this to a few Army friends of mine to see if the idea can be reached to the top brass. A 'baagh', whether under Army or BBMP control, with zero construction, and a nominal entry fee for the public would indeed be the dream prospect. Muralidhar Rao
Muralidhar Rao
narayan82's picture

Keep the Army and the Lungspace!

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My biggest scare with the army moving out is the Land Mafia that will move in. they will somehow convert this lung space into a multi story sprawling IT Tech Park! The project may start with a few citizen protests and all, but knowing thier power this could well be over ridden! Hence as long as the army stays there, there is no encroachment and the land doesn't become a stink bed! Same goes for all the army land in Central Bangalore. If that were to go, all hell would break loose. And everyone would want a share of the pie. Not something I look forward to all. The army also brings a certain bit of pride and nostalgia to the city, if they did give up thier land and go - it would be a teary moment! I suggest that army "chills out"a bit, and opens thier land for public. Hence the army themselves can convert empty, green, lush land into parks. People could be allowed inside this park during morning/evenings and an entry fee can be collected. This would turn to be another source of Income for the army (to which we are paying 85,000Crores anyway!) This could be a bonus to the regiment, leading to happiness all around! But the problem is the Army is scared of anyone entering thier establishments. They did not allow an underground parking lot at Manekshaw Parade Ground, as the Brig in charge was scared someone would land up with a truck full of RDX! We can't keep closing ourselves because of terror. we have to open up, and have better security. I do hope the army considers this!
Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer
Bangalore
Naveen's picture

Army Land - City comes First

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Whilst it certainly is a blessing in disguise that the army is occupying huge tracts of land in this erstwhile cantonment, they also need to be sensitive to the needs of the city, with it's high growth rate. I think the lands are better retained with the army as parks would lead to more sprawls for hawkers, anti-social elements, etc, apart from huge costs for maintenance. 1) Cariappa park near BRV had been opened with a lot of fanfare when Devegowda was CM, but due to squabbles between the army & the BMP over costs of maintenance, it is nearly defucnt now. I am not sure what the status of this park now is, but when I had visited it last some years ago, it had been run down with poor maintenance. 2) When the Intermediate Ring Rd between Koramangala & Indiranagar had been opened, the vacant agaram army land had been earmarked to create an urban forest as the army had not been using much of it. This project also fell through & the forest never came up. I am quite certain that the reasons would have been similar - who would bear costs for maintenance & who would monitor ? During Devegowda's time as PM, the army, which had been refusing to part with any land, had finally given up some land under pressure for 4-laning Old Madras Rd (from Ulsoor Lake till Adarsh Cinema cross). Army lands should only be released for most essential infrastructure needs. Strips of army land are required at several places, such as Hosur road (opp Prestige Elgin) & near Mekhri circle for road widening & also for the future Metro phases, to name a few spots. However, they have been quite adamant & have tended to refuse such requests outright. Elsewhere, from news reports, I understand that in Hyderabad, land from some central govt entity was forcibly taken over by the state govt for 8-laning the road. Also, in Ranchi, army land was taken over by the Jharkhand govt for development project/s & alternate land given to them outside the city.
srkulhalli's picture

Bad idea : Dont penalise me because my house is green

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I live bang next to the army land and I very much echo the first part of narayan's views. I am dead concerned that sooner or later something like this will be hijacked by our dear politicains and land mafia after which there is no control. This land was given to the army ages ago. Should not the city have built its own parks, planned itself well. When we (the city) mess up, dont run after people who have not messed up. Let them enjoy what they rightfully own. This is literally my problem too, I have kept a lot of space and built a beautifull garden. But this encourages lot of people to lotier around and sit under the trees just outside. What you are saying is because I have a garden I should open it up to the general public and let them enjoy their romance in my garden ??? Lets focus on clearing up the city mess ourselves. Once you start close interaction, the mess will spread around and sooner or later it will start - one nook and corner here, poor peoples housing, very justifyable sounding reasons and then the lung space will be nostalgia. The wall between civilian and army is very much neccessary, both physical and psycological. Right now this is the only way to ensure that army remains a notch higher in their integrity and abilities and specifically the Bangalore lung space remains. Instead we should take this as a lesson learnt and ensure that Challaghatta Bagh or whatevery park is part of the next CDP. That is a longer but correct way to go. The temptation to take shortcuts is high but we will never learn our lessons that way.

Suhas

Suhas

Arun's picture

A huge park with Bellandur

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A huge park with Bellandur Lake as an integral part would do a world of good. Even, if the army does nothing of this sort and just allows grass to grow, they would still be doing a great job for Bangalore. Handing over the land to the State Government will be the worst thing to do as the end use could never be predicted. On a case to case basis, Army can part with portions of land for creation of any infrastructure that would help a larger section.
narayan82's picture

Re:srkulhalli

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Srk, You have a valid point. Invasion of personal property. In your case it makes sense, your pvt gardent has no right to be converted (and messed up) by public. But the Army, is part of the govt too. You see, if we dont ever change the fact that park leads to vendors and hawkers and then a mess, then we will never get a park worth keeping. The advantage here is, that if the Army maintains the park and enforces laws within it, not only will it create a better civic understanding, but also it will give much wanted income to the regiment in charge. Face that facts - there is no where else in the city where a park of such magnitude can be built apart from Army Land. Do citizens deserve to be burden with pollution because the town planner failed? We need to find a solution that serves both purposes.
Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer
Bangalore
psaram42's picture

Take the dream forward in a best way possible?

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Suhas, Narayan Your points are valid. I also feel Army should keep the Agara Farm land. In addition BSY should Transfer the Bellandur lake area to Army for developing the tank with the available surrounding area into a park. The Army should take the forest project in Agara forward. Our concern is that this lake too may vanish in due course. Praja should probably take this forward proactively.
asj's picture

Creative but

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SB, Very creative idea worth taking forward but for the concerns raised by everyone. The concerns are grave enough to not proceed. Mind you, it still does not save the land, Pune Armed forces land is up for grabs by the PPP for the Metro rail (if not that, then its the land owned by Agriculture college). ASJ
ssheragu's picture

Bad idea : Dont penalise me because my house is green

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ssheragu Suhas I am fully in agreement with you; If Army has large tracts land, we citizens wil benefit the most & best, if these large tarcts of land are left with the Army. these tracts of land serve as lung spaces of Bangalore and all Bangaloreans will benefit by this Land with the Army let it be with the Army thanks Srinath Heragu

Let the Army itself develop parks and maintain them

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Atleast let the army develop parks - without changing the existing green cover. Then atleast, Bangaloreans can still have more green space. The point is - the army lands need to be put to good use rather than keeping them idle. Perhaps Bangalore Inc can join the PPP as part of their CSR and work towards establishing more parks like JP Park on Army land.
silkboard's picture

Why be scared?

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Agree with Narayan there, and Arun as well. Why be scared of land sharks not leaving any lung spaces for us in the city? Instead, lets put pressure and suggest and demand parks on open tracts of land that are still available with the city. And thanks to the Army, we still have some. Army can keep the land. Just let civilians grow some grass and maintain the lake. I am sure Koramangala Residents Association will be more than happy to partner with Army in developing this park and using the gate revenues to fund the maintenance of grass and trees. Murali - what did your Army friends say? How good or bad is this dream. slurp slurp. We are all so fed up of the ugly life in this city which has left cramped and crowded malls as the only place families can take their kid and have a good time. Can't be out with my son on roads for a nice walk, there are no pavements left. Can't go to any friends and relatives as it just takes too time and stress. Anyway. Leave that rant out, off the records.
psaram42's picture

Fast positive action by Praja required. No scare.

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We could probably brain storm to get a viable plan of action and act fast. We need to gather support of other like minded organizations and personalities. We need to contact the Army too.
asj's picture

Go a step further

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What will eventually save the land is popular use by the public (right now it sure must be under scrutiny of those plotting to grab it some day). The army could manage it, make money out of it, popularise armed forces - so offer a modern educational, personal growth and entertainment facility. Can they consider offering - eco-swimming pool (a quasi lake), cadets like training for teenagers (a taste of what life is like in a military school), basic horse riding training, jogging track, athletic facilitites - long jump, high jump, shot put. Armed forces medical college in Pune even offered hot air baloon rides during one medical conference Depending on terrain - a nature trail / urban farm (there are many in London), basic gardening skills ..... Avoid hawking completely - have a canteen like facility managed officially And keep it in principle completely non-commercial. ASJ
narayan82's picture

How about Bringing the birds back?

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I have noticed, the population of birds and other animals in the city is gradually decreasing. In fact, Sparrows are almost missing. How about we create an eco-park which allows our next gen to see animals without having to drive out for a weekend? No point, building a cubbon park kind of place for such a cause, the human inteference will chase them all away! How about we create this into an ECO park, and restrict the number of visitors today. Like a cinema hall, you sell tickets in advance! It can also be a great place for people to learn how to visit nature without harming it. Less crowd means easier enforcement and education.
Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer
Bangalore

Sankey Park model

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I go everyday for walking in Sankey Park in Sadashivnagar. It is assidiously well maintained. It was the initiative of the Sankey Park Walker's Association and the initiative of the Honourable MLA of Malleswaram, Shri Dr C N Ashwath Narayan. It is 100% a non-commercial park. Even pet dogs are not allowed in. There is NO vendor / hawker allowed in the park and the security guards are paid by the Association with some help from the Government. Food sold out by Vendors is NOT allowed inside the park and strict timings are maintained in the park. If ordinary citizens can do it why can't our Army do it?

Bangalore Inc can pour CSR funds

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Bangalore Inc can fund landscaping, designing, simple infrastructure like seats, children's play areas, simple bridges over lakes, fountains, small solar pv/wind lights for such parks. Funding can come from their CSR funds. We can tap international donors as well. If Barney Marcus and family can fund the Georgia Aquarium along with help of other companies based out of Georgia, i am sure we in Bangalore can rope in NRN, Premji and others to fund such initiatives.
psaram42's picture

No dearth of funds or ideas.

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There are so many eco friendly examples / models available for utilizing the land and lake area, as articulated already in this thread. Recently MLA Raghu got a park with fence gates etc done up in a record time in Indiranagar. There is a regular maintenance staff too. The MLAs have a fund of 2 crores for utilizing in such activities solely under their powers. There are many examples how MLAs are spending this personal funds. Many parks, big junction lights etc are favorite projects done up with this kind of fund. Of course they put up their name boards in Granite in those sites for perpetuating public memory of their good deeds. I am sure local MLAs will support the Agram Military Farm along with Belandur Lake project, if only army agrees. Even if Army is not willing to open it to the public it is still worth while from eco friendliness point of view. Growing trees is a time consuming project not a fund consuming one. The Cariappa park opening up for the public was a success. We used to visit it very often earlier.
srkulhalli's picture

Still not a good idea

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There are multiple perspectives here - 1. Army civilian interaction : In my view, this is best kept to the minimum. Just like we do not want the Army to interfere in our politics and govermental affairs (like they do in Pakistan), if we are serious about the seperation, it should be maintained at all levels. There will be issues once you start getting closer - familiarity breeds contempt - somebody who cannot afford the entry fee will have a grudge against the army, a jawan might make a pass at a girl and the city folks might get into a brawl .. am not sure whose jurisdiction it falls in, people will come in with all kinds of requests, on the timings, kind of park et al - so the peoples representatives - aka politicans will be called in. Army specially needs the distance so that we maintain a healty respect. As my house falls on the border, I have seen some jawans behave lewdly when females are around, my respect has come down, though it might be just a case of one or two rotten apples. 2. Use : Some of you have commented the land is not being used. That has a different connotation to different people - I have seen Army folks still jog and march in that area - to them that is use. To others unless you construct some buildings its not being used - might tempt the army into constructing something there. And surely, a beautifull housing colony would be a great use of that - right ? Similarly some people might feel a park is a good use. To someone, nature left to itself, with all the ecosystem it naturally supports, be in just birds, mongooses, squirels, snakes might be the best use. Surely you will not allow snakes to roam around in the park - would you ? We can learn to respect nature by learning to resist our temptation and leave it alone. 3. Why only this ? We all want our city to be better, thats why we are here. But there are a zillion other things that one could do - design better roads - take care of our lakes - enforce layouts to have good spacing and greenery - plan our mass transport better - ensure future developmental plans incorporate large lakes and parks - why not put our energies in improving something that is not good rather than runnning after and potentially screwing up what is right now very good. 4. Army can take care of its property : I think the army is pretty good of guarding its property, otherwise we would not be entrusting them with guarding our country. Problem is it can take care of local mafia, however if it comes from the top - central govt., then it becomes legally bound. If at all we are concerned about losing it, we can work to protect it by strengenthing the law into protecting it.

Suhas

Suhas

narayan82's picture

Re:Suhas

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Your points are valid. But.... 1. Army civilian interaction: Can we not hope the pendilum swings the other way? A bit of the regime and orderly behaviour of the army rubs of on general public? Another thought - is that even though the army land is owned by the army it can be leased out to a private party/NGO which can maintain the park, collect entrance fee and pay a royalty to the army. There can be reserved timings, where Army gets restricted access to the area for thier rounds/practice etc. Point is, we have to work around this problem to arrive a solution that can overcome most possible trouble areas.
Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer
Bangalore

We are a more mature democracy

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Suhas, Our good friend and neighbour to the west has a unique distinction in which the army has a country. But it is opposite in our case. With us, the country has a army. I hope you get the difference! ;-) Army interaction in politics when it comes to formulating defence strategy and overall foreign relations is needed. Observe how our Navy elevated us to Regional Power status after the 2004 tsunami. Thus, it is important to realise that we as a country *have* an army which we *can* use for our purposes. While i laud our armed forces, i do not go to the extent like most of my other country men do in worshipping them. As much as i cheer the Late Sam Manekshaw, he has his shortcomings and took too much credit for our 1971 victory. But this is for a different thread. The point is we should not go to the extent of being pontificated by our military. I am the biggest opposer of the Sixth Pay Commission for bureaucratic leeches. I support a huge pay raise for personnel of armed forces instead. Coming back to the point, Victor Hugo once remarked that one should "change one's leaves, but not one's roots". Sure the Army Establishment in Bangalore has a hoary past with a lot of nostalgia attached to it. But we must change with times. Surely asking for better parks is not comparable to asking for secrets about weapons of mass destruction!
silkboard's picture

okay, time to chase this dream

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Please, enough of arguments over Army. Let us not claim expertise over anything and everything and bring in negativity here. Facts as much as possible and if stating opinions, please be polite. We can however comfortably say that all of us will be pleased to be gifted a huge park not so far away from the central area of the city. So lets go chasing a few people to see how hard this dream is to realize. Folks with armed forces connection, could you ask your friends. How about we setup an online petition here that will send out emails to BBMP or ABIDe to consider the suggestion. Don't rugh into - they'd not do a thing - lets at least see how they respond. Who do we address the petition to - BBMP, ABIde, BDA, a Minister? Suggest please. BTW, I for one believe that if we move in and get a park here, we will cut down the chances that land sharks will consume this land (if it ever opens up) for tech parks, malls and apartments
s_yajaman's picture

Old race course?

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Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

Bangalore Turf Club

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srkulhalli's picture

Narayan, mcadambi, You have

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Narayan, mcadambi, You have made your point well - no need to be over sensitive on army civilian interaction, at least as far as a park is concerned :) Still, stand by on the other points - especially would rather leave nature to itself

Suhas

Suhas

Ravi_D's picture

Good thought... but...

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Idea is excellent... But, thoughts expressed by others is very valid too. We know 'us' quite well. Our fellow citizens will find very innovative ways to commercialize that piece of land once the army begins to relent. And remember, once it is a place for public utility, rest (civic agencies and their clones, politicians, mafia) sincerely follow. I'd rather leave the lung space the way it is instead. If we ever want something like this to happen, we are better off by first ensuring (by legislating likewise or some other way) that such property will NEVER be open to anyone else but the army. Thanks, Ravi
silkboard's picture

Can we resume on this one?

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We kind of gave up on pursuing this. Times were bad then due to unstable state govt etc.

Will some people be interested in taking this forward. Will have to start with a meeting with Army folks first.

Some arrangements can be explored where

  • Army lets Koramangala or (any other local) RWA operate a huge park on their land.
  • Army operates a park itself as part of some internal SR program they may have. We can get private parties who may help pay for work via sponsorships
  • Or, Army leases land to BBMP with strict conditions of usage

Actually, I have no idea how this could work - very little of things on Army side. On local government side, I have 'heard' Army is hard to work with and all that. But I am not buying any of that till we meet and hear Army's general stance on things like these.

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