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A green expanse in the heart of Chennai

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the inauguration of the Guindy National Park in Madras in 1959 - PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the inauguration of the Guindy National Park in Madras in 1959 - PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Nearly 300 years ago, a hunting ground occupied over 500 hectares of forest in what is the heart of today’s Chennai. This vast expanse, known as the Guindy Lodge, was owned by a British national Gilbert Rodericks. When he died, the property was mortgaged and bought by the then Madras Government for Rs. 35,000 in 1821.

In the post-independence era, the area became the official residence of the Governor, the Raj Bhavan. Subsequently, the then Governor offered to surrender 400 hectares to reduce maintenance costs. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru accepted the proposal to create a small park. In 1958, the area was handed over to the forest department.

Dates in History
 
1821

Madras government buys the 500-hectare property of Gilbert Rodericks

1959

Children's Park inaugurated by Prime Minister Nehru

1978

250.57 hectares of the land declared a national park

Did you know !
 

Many prominent institutions in the city such as IIT-Madras, Cancer Institute and Gandhi Mandapam stand on land that was once part of the national park complex

The surrendered area was apportioned to Gandhi Mandapam in 1954, IIT-Madras in 1961, Guru Nanak Educational Society in 1970, Rajaji Memorial in 1974, Kamaraj Memorial in 1975 and Cancer Institute in 1977. Thus, only 270.57 hectares remained, which was declared a national park in 1978.

This is the story of the Guindy National Park, which to this day, plays an important role in the ecological map of Chennai.

The park has over 350 species of plants including trees, shrubs, climbers, herbs and grasses. Prominent species include sandalwood, teak, mahogany, banyan, cashew, mango, neem, jamoon , wild berry, tamarind, cactus, date palm and even drocera, an insect eating plant.

The small Indian civet, toddy cat, jungle cat, jackal, hedgehog, pangolin, black napped hare, common mongoose and ground shrew are some of the small mammals found in the park. Pariah kite, brahminy kite, black winged kite, grey partridge, shikra , yellow wattled lapwing, rose ringed parakeet, coucal, spotted dove, blue-tailed bee eater, coppersmith and lesser golden backed woodpecker are among the prominent avian species.

K.S.S.V.P. Reddy, additional principal chief conservator of forests and zoo director, said that of the total 270 hectares, nearly 45 hectares are covered by water bodies. Earlier, the rainwater used to get drained into stormwater drains in Velachery. But, with the introduction of water harvesting structures, the run-off water ends up in various ponds on the park premises.

And above all, the park is the exclusive habitat of black buck in the heart of Chennai.


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Printable version | Aug 17, 2022 1:15:26 am | https://www.thehindu.com/madras375/Madras-Day-Madras-375-Guindy-National-Park-a-green-expanse-in-the-heart-of-Chennai/article60087528.ece