The over 130-year-old Lloyd Botanical Garden in Darjeeling will, for the very first time, start taking entry fees from visitors. The idea is to generate funds for the garden’s better upkeep and to have only “good” groups of visitors so that better discipline is maintained there and it remains cleaner.

The garden that was established in the year 1878 and which spreads over an area of 40 acres, will be charging Rs 20 per visitor and Rs 5 for students if they have letters from their educational institutes from March this year. There will be four entry points.

The forest ranger of the LBG Directorate of Forests and Siviculture (Hills), Manoj Kumar Chettri said, “Not much government funds come here, so by introducing the ticket system, we want to generate more funds so that the area can be properly maintained and more improvements can be made and more facilities can be provided to visitors.”

“Apart from that, we have noticed that the free entry system has led to many antisocial elements entering the garden and littering the place,” he added. As a road that runs from inside the garden is used by people living in villages surrounding it–like Pragriti Gram, Stenthal, Shiva Gram, Chandmari and Pound Road- – directorate officials have held a meeting with the villagers and they have decided to issue “green passes” for the users. However, one pass will cost a villager Rs 50 annually. “The same system will be implemented for people who come for morning walk in the area, but they will be given pink cards,” Mr Chettri said.

Plans are also afoot to provide drinking water facilities along with building toilets and a cafeteria in the garden. According to Mr Chettri, the number of visitors during the tourist season per day reaches the 500-mark.

The LBG boasts of 1,000 species of plants, among which there are 141 types of medicinal plants, along with about 60 rare and endangered species. There are about 164 species of trees, 176 species of shrubs, 144 species of herbs, 46 species of climbers, among other plants like orchids and cactus.

Fossil trees like Ginkgo biloba whose genus is reported to have been in existence since the past 120 million years, and the Metasequoia glyptostroboides, a living example of a genus known to date back to 20 million years are also found in the garden.

The trees were planted there in the year 1944. One can also find the wisteria Chinensis, two giant very old flowering climbers, which bloom in the month of April. They were planted there in the year 1878 when the garden was established.