Acute shortage of gardeners to maintain Delhi’s 15,000 parks

Sep 18, 2023 01:40 AM IST

MCD data reveals that more than 50% of the sanctioned posts for gardeners are currently lying vacant

Hari Lal is one of five gardeners entrusted to oversee the maintenance of 72 parks at Patel Nagar. In his team, two people maintain parks in residential neighbourhoods —called housing area parks —and their duties include removing garbage, watering the plants, and trimming the grass. They also prune trees along colony roads, and remove fallen trees after stormy weather.

The MCD park at Pocket B , Mayur Vihar Phase-2, in New Delhi. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo) PREMIUM
The MCD park at Pocket B , Mayur Vihar Phase-2, in New Delhi. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

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Ankush Narang, the councillor of the Patel Nagar ward, said that even if two people spend an entire day to clean and spruce up one colony park, it would take more than a month — 36 days to be exact — to return to the same park.

“There is an acute shortage of gardeners to tend to green spaces. We have only five gardeners for a massive area, and many of them are on the verge of retirement. This translates to garbage accumulating for several months, which means that we don’t allow our children to spend time in parks. Our entire area suffers from the same problem as no fresh recruitments have been made,” said Narang, from the Aam Aadmi Party, who put up a short notice question before the house of councillors to flag the crisis on August 31.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s horticulture department maintains 15,226 city parks, spread over an area of 5172.07 acres. Around 90% of these green spaces are categorised as housing area parks, and they not only act as breathing space for the Capital’s residents, but also provide exercise and recreational space.

However, MCD data reveals that more than 50% of the sanctioned posts for gardeners are currently lying vacant — there are 7,872 sanctioned posts, of which only 3,446 are currently occupied. The data also reveals that of MCD’s 12 zones, some are worse off than the others.

For example, the City-SP, West, and Civil Lines zones are the best off — these areas have one gardener for 1.04, 1.2, and 1.21 acres respectively — though even this is higher than the 0.5 acres per gardener that the Delhi Parks and Garden society estimates is ideal to maintain a green space in the Capital.

On the other hand, Rohini, Keshavpuram, and Karol Bagh zones are the worst off, with 2.43, 2.14, and 2.11 acres for one gardener, respectively.

Pradeep Mittal, who represents the Rohini-A ward, said, “We have 280 municipal parks in our ward and just two gardeners. These two people will not be able to clean and maintain the park even in five years of my tenure.”

The AAP councillor said he has deployed a private tractor and vehicle with his own resources to manage the situation.

Meanwhile, east Delhi has a whole different headache — MCD has not sanctioned any vehicles to manage green waste in this part of the city.

BS Vohra, who heads the East Delhi RWA joint front, said that the shortage of gardeners impacts the maintenance of local colony parks and greenery which can help in improving ambient air quality of neighbourhoods. “East Delhi has suffered due to shortage of resources and manpower due to the financial crunch. Now that the corporations have been unified, the resources should also be allocated on equal ratio. East Delhi should get equal number of gardeners and vehicles,” he said.

Sheetal Ved Pal Chuadhary, from the Congress party who represents the Aya Nagar ward, said, “It is ultimately wastage of public funds if maintenance is not carried out. We need more people on the ground and hiring must be expedited.”

Atul Goyal, who heads the RWA umbrella body URJA (United RWAs Joint Action) said that the north Delhi belt is equally suffering due to shortage of maintenance staff. “Lack of basic resources like gardeners is the main reason behind the shabby condition of parks in our region. The corporation does not have resources that is why RWAs are encouraged to adopt the parks but the money provided for this is not sufficient. Age factor is also critical — around 20-25% gardeners are on the verge of retirement. The limited manpower is expected to maintain green belts, pruning of trees and the gardens fall last in the priority,” he said.

MCD data shows that the vacancies are not limited to field staff alone — the horticulture department has a provision for 15 deputy directors to help formulate and execute policies, of which 11 posts are vacant; 13 out of 27 posts for assistant directors are vacant, while 60% of the section officers’ posts are yet to be filled.

Padmavati Dwivedi, an environmentalist and tree expert, said that a gardener’s is a labour-intensive job that cannot be replaced by more mechanisation, and essential manpower has to be ensured. She said machines can be used for specific tasks, but the multipurpose role of gardeners requires various forms of work. “We are in a mess due to neglecting our green spaces... There should also be focus on reducing the high maintenance lawn space and addition of shrubs and climbers instead,” Dwivedi said.

Read here: MCD plans new park for people with disabilities

A senior MCD official said a file for filling the posts through the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB) was moved to the central establishment department, but the department has advised that the recruitment rules must first be amended and notified via gazette, and only then hiring should be carried out through DSSSB. “The process of amending the rules is under process. We will outsource the work to hire private gardeners, who will be deployed after the tender process is completed,” the official said.

As an interim measure, an MCD spokesperson said, a contract for outsourcing of malis has been awarded and more gardeners will be provided.

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