Senior citizens of Chicalim came in for a nasty shock on Sunday when they discovered that the Joggers Park in the vicinity had been brutally stripped of all its natural greenery and shade-giving trees, thus leaving no space whatsoever for recreational activity and exercise.
In what is probably the first of its kind in recent times, a large number of locals, comprising mainly distressed senior citizens, retired defence personnel, some regular walkers and little children, gathered in large numbers and took to the streets to mark a silent protest against the massive ongoing destruction of the greenery in the Joggers Park.
“It is a silent protest, but our hearts are full of sorrow and pain. Our hills are being cut in the name of development. Now it is our Joggers Park that is being destroyed,” lamented Bevindo Fernandes.
Another senior citizen Constancio Godinho pointed out that the ongoing concretisation of Dabolim has resulted in the massive destruction of greenery. “In Phase I of the Joggers Park, senior citizens relaxed, walked around and enjoyed the beauty of the park. Now all this has become a distant dream,” he said.
Devang Mehta, a local resident, recollected that this park was a collaborative venture, with many locals planting trees and everyone coming together as a community to enjoy the natural surroundings.
He along with Saviola Fernandes expressed the fear that business interests and a hidden agenda may mean the end of the last green habitat of Dabolim.
A retired defence personnel, who had come equipped as usual with bottles of water to water two mango trees planted by him, expressed dismay at the sight of the destruction.
The seniors lamented that the destruction of the green Jogger’s Park had put an end to their only physical activity of walking and relaxing in the twilight of their lives.
They expressed their deep regret that in the name of development Joggers Park, which was constructed just about 5-6 years back at a huge cost to the taxpayers, had been summarily destroyed.
They recalled that during the nearly two years of their home confinement during the COVID lockdown, they used to anxiously pray for an end to the pandemic so that they could come back to enjoy the cool breeze, the chirping of the birds and the congenial company amongst the greenery that existed in the park that soothed their eyes and provided relief from the concrete jungle that was choking Dabolim.
Now, they bemoan the fact that their only recreational facility is all set to disappear under steel structures and concrete construction being put up in this beautiful venue.
“The huge trees that provided shade and cool breeze have been cut down. The fruit-bearing trees that once sheltered birds have given way to the concretisation seen all around,” said Saviola Fernandes.
The gathering of dejected citizens expressed their profound sadness on learning that Joggers Park was likely to be converted into an amusement park/destination wedding venue.
An 80-year-old senior citizen expressed his anxiety and sadness on learning that during the recent Gram Sabha in the Chicalim Panchayat, the consultant hinted that the park, once redesigned with a food court, creche, stage, etc, would be handed over to be managed by a private party.
While speaking to this reporter, an elderly couple who lived in the neighbourhood and took part in today’s walk around the park feared that the destruction marked the end to the peaceful times that they had been enjoying to date.
A young man Crispino Faria, who came in support of the senior citizens, questioned the Chicalim Panchayat’s utilisation of public money to destroy the green facility and build a new grey, concrete one when they had thrown up their hands concerning the maintenance of the park.
He also pointed out that the covered concrete structures being built would provide a perfect cover for the burgeoning anti-social activities, including drugs, prostitution, etc.