India’s first Interactive Children Traffic Park, created to familiarise them with traffic rules and road disciplines. It was conceptualised and designed by a team lead by Dr Aseem, the writer and developed by the Thane Municipal Corporation.
Open spaces, natural areas, recreation facilities and leisure programs are an integral part of the public infrastructure system that creates a liveable, dynamic and economically vibrant City. As cities across India are attracting millions of residents again, the centres of this sweeping urban renaissance are newly revitalised parks. They are not only safe and beautiful, but also serve as green engines to help address nearly every critical urban need from health to housing, to education and environmental justice, and countering sprawl to combating crime.
Dr. Aseem Gokarn Harwansh, (Consultant - landscape & Horticulture)
Childhood is a holistic process, different for each individual child. Many children do not learn effectively exclusively within a classroom. They need an alternative, hands-on learning environments to match their varied learning styles. City parks offer children the daily benefits of direct experience with nature — the motivations to explore, discover, and learn about their world and to engage in health-promoting, physical activity. City parks engage children in informal, experiential learning through play and shared experiences with peers, laying the foundation for effective formal education. Public parks are often the “engine” that drives tourism in many communities.
Our efforts in developing and preserving this landscape were to educate children about Road Safety. And also revive the history behind the development of the vehicles as a mode of transportation, i.e. “THE DISCOVERY OF THE WHEEL” which has significantly brought a change to humankind through an apt landscape design. The design evolves out of this need of making the garden a tranquil place offering a spectacular visual and spatial experience for visitors, telling the story of plants in all-weather ‘edutainment spaces’. The vision is to create an ecologically designed retreat for learning by preserving, rehabilitating, and adaptively reusing its existing features. Also, carefully adding structures and landscape features to support new uses and engaging programs addressing sustainability and environmental education. The 11.73 acres master plan (CHILDREN TRAFFIC PARK & URBAN FOREST) takes its inspiration from the Indian values and manifests itself into a highly sophisticated and integrated 3D network of horticulture, art, engineering and architecture. The design includes the creation of an encyclopedia of plants and fostering applied horticulture to taxonomical botany in the Urban Forest that will make learning more receptive and more enjoyable.
The prime goal of this project is to provide spaces for healthy interaction between people of all age groups, along with giving them a holistic approach towards a better living environment. An attempt is made to create a destination for tourists and residents, both young and old.
The Project started with Site Survey & Analysis. A contour survey, which gave us an insight into the topography, assessment of existing natural vegetation and existing soil condition. The landscape restoration plan aimed at improving native vegetation and biodiversity.
The entire land was a hillock devoid of any good vegetation. Big rocks, small stone partition walls with dried rank vegetation dotted the landscape. The microclimate was quite hot and humid. There was no distinct difference in temperature from the surrounding areas. This gave rise to us who were trying to create a temperature drop by an allocation of trees and water bodies. It will help in heat mitigation, reduce heat island effect and create a pleasant environment.
S.W.O.T ANALYSIS :
- Area is Growing as a residential hotspot.
- The proposed access road to facilitate the zone.
- Close proximity to Ghodbunder Highway.
- Proximity to Mumbai & Navi Mumbai.
- Lots of Contours on the site
- No much Tree Cover
- Land still to be acquired fully
- Potential for Themed Park.
- Creation of visual features to improve aesthetics and friendliness of area;
- Surrounded by residential and School Complexes.
- Absence of recreational areas.
- Retaining and reviving the natural ambience.
- Easy access
- Increasing public interference.
- Inactive land belt.
JOURNEY THROUGH THE PARK
The Park invites visitors with its uniquely designed Compound wall and a magnanimous centrally located Drop off that allures the City people to come in and live the experiences and build memories.
The Entrance portal itself is uniquely designed resembling a Racing Car.
A distinctive Drop Off is created at the entrance that will increase the curiosity of the visitors alluring them to come inside.
An Amphitheatre with its stepped traffic collage is vividly seen from the entrance itself.
The park is designed as a mini City Chowk with a fire station, a school, a hospital, petrol pump and other city features.
Appropriate signage along the mini road lined with a mini footpath help the children to learn the traffic rules by play way method.
Visitors are directed to different zones, to avoid crowding and facilitate maximum space utilisation. A dedicated track to learn cycle riding allures the kids and a separate track for adult two-wheeler riding beckon the elders on the opposite side. Both the tracks are distinctively different in size, and features. While the children track has interactive walls and selfie points, the adult track has elements with different degrees of difficulty to learn and practice two-wheeler driving under the supervision of trained personnel. Both have arrangements to park the cycles, two-wheelers, orientation spaces, and changing rooms for wearing required safety gears. An RTO facility is provided within the park to issue learning licenses to the adult women riders. Traffic rules, riding rules are displayed along these two zones for better learning experiences. The slope, the orientation of the track and its length was designed as per traffic protocols.
There is a dedicated zone for learning four wheelers for children and adults with similar facilities. Children can drive the kid-four wheelers provided within the park around the track throughout the garden. The bends, turns, structures are positioned with appropriate signage and road traffic signs along this mini-city road. A traffic police booth at the inter-junction gives scope for a few selfies too.
Nestled at the centre of the park is an amphitheatre uniquely designed with a central stage and permeable green surface for workshops and orientation of large groups of school children. Children can play an interactive Snake & Ladder game, incorporating traffic rules, which is a great attraction. Photo booths are also available at various places.
The highlights of the park are the two simulation blocks for two-wheelers and four-wheelers, where sessions are regularly conducted for learning driving. These, along with practical training sessions, are managed by Honda and Maruti as their CSR activities.
A distinctly yellow-painted building, which houses the canteen stands at the further end from where one enters into the Urban Forest, a much integral part of this urban park.
All the raised surfaces were built using existing stones with rubble masonry works. Existing trees were adopted as traffic islands. Bright colours create an ambience apt for children.
One travels through the Traffic park to reach the Urban Jungle. The urban forest is spread over the balance 7.5 acres and is developed using all indigenous trees. The nature trails intersperse through this green haven which has macchan like sit-outs made from bamboos with natural flooring smeared with cow dung! Every tree has signage, with its common name, Botanical name, and use.
Precautions were taken to undertake the tree plantation without disturbing any contours. Steep slopes were converted into gentle steps, rammed with existing stones as cobbles excavated or pulverised at the site from the huge rocks. The trails are lined with a natural trellis of flowering creepers at intervals creating pretty arches in the arbour.
The park has transformed the barren hill, devoid of any greenery into a green oasis. Caterpillars, butterflies, birds adorn the hillscape now creating various food linkages and food chains, a complete ecosystem. Adjudged as one of the most successful AMRUT Mission (Atal Mission for Restoration & Urban Transformation) projects, this little “Amrutvan” offers the citizen a place to relax, exercise, indulge in the nature play and rediscover the happiness that nature provides.
As one leaves the park, the exit portal has a collage of different wheels, silently reminding to respect this invention, which helped mankind evolve into what we are today!
Use of LED lights, with no uplighting of trees to avoid nesting birds is followed diligently.
Public amenities like parking spaces, dustbins, Drinking water facilities, fencing, ticketing booth etc. are also part of the design.
Lastly, the Landscape Design Plan resonates the avenues for developing ample opportunities for generating a revenue model for better management of the park& garden. Unless such possibilities are explored, the park ownership is not taken up by the residents. As a result, maintenance issues arise and sooner or later, the beauty of the park and its functionality is diminished.
In an area where the Youth have frequent access to gadgets, it is imperative to establish an interactive system of entertainment. Also, this system should nurture their minds and create responsible citizens. Vehicles have become an inseparable mode of transport and create problems of traffic and reinforcement of laws. A need was felt to introduce this city-bred system into a recreational space, creating opportunities for children, to learn the Road Safety rules by a play way method. In this park, we have tried to enforce our view that goes well beyond the traditional value of parks as places of recreation and visual assets to communities. It focuses on how policymakers, practitioners, and the public can think about parks as valuable contributors to broader urban policy objectives, such as job opportunities, youth development, public health, and community building.
The Children Traffic park & Urban Forest has thus enhanced the quality of urban living. It provided an urban community space through innovative, culturally appropriate and environmentally sensitive urban planning and landscaping. Inspired by the people it knows, built for the people it serves and given to the people it celebrates.
She is a Greenspace consultant for Atal Mission for Restoration & Urban Transformation, Maharashtra, completed over 70 projects. Empanelled in Municipal corporations of Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Kalyan, Ulhasnagar, Jaipur Dev Authority, JKTDC etc Currently working with Smart Cities and completed Godavari River Bank Restoration, Powai Lake etc..
-Dr. Aseem Gokarn Harwansh, (Consultant – landscape & Horticulture)