Delhi: Nowhere to play in the spacious capital

  • Soumya Pillai, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 04, 2016 12:53 IST
A dilapidated playground in Naraina. Despite facing flak from the Delhi High Court for poor upkeep of play areas, civic agencies have done little to improve parks. (S Burmaula/HT File Photo)

The national capital has more green cover than any capital in India, and is second only to Chandigarh in terms of open space. Why do the children here have few spaces where they can play safely?

“We keep blaming children and parents for not going out and playing but when we do not have enough play spaces for them how will they play?” said Sunanda Srivastava, member of RWA in Vasant Vihar.

She said children played on the streets because colony parks were not maintained well. “This is never an agenda for political parties,” Srivastava said.

At 29 lakhs, children aged 0-14 years constitute 45% of Delhi’s population — the highest compared to any city in India, according to NGO Butterflies.

The 2011 census says there are 20 lakh children in the age group of 0-6 years in Delhi. This accounts for 12% of Delhi’s population.

But most play areas built for children are now garbage dumps, havens for drug addicts or simply lay abandoned, say experts.“The sad part is that since children are not vote banks no one wants to focus on providing proper play facilities. This is not the state in just a few areas, but across the city the condition of parks and play spaces is deplorable,” said Rita Panicker, director of NGO Butterflies that works to reclaim children’s right to play.

She said they had been trying to get government agencies to concentrate on providing a healthy childhood to lakhs of children in the city. “We are not fighting against lack of resources but lack of will by authorities,” she said.

Experts said playgrounds maintained by schools are in a poor condition as well. Government and court orders reiterated that schools, especially at primary levels, should have a playground and a period for physical education.

A survey by Butterflies in 2010 showed there were more than 5,043 schools in Delhi, out of which over 400 were given land at concessional or cheaper rates. But as many as 400 schools did not have playgrounds fit for children to play.

According to an analysis by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in 2013, Delhi has over 20% green cover — more than any other capital city. World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines said every city ideally should have nine square metres (sqm) of space per city dweller.

Delhi has over 12.14 sqm of open space per person. This is 1,000 times that of Mumbai’s 0.012 sqm and Chennai’s 0.010 sqm, according to a DDA survey in 2013.

Delhi has over 15,000 parks and open spaces. The municipal corporations maintain 14,000, while the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) takes care of 1,100. The DDA has four regional parks, 111 district parks, 255 neighbourhood parks, 25 city forests, 26 playgrounds and two bio-diversity parks.

Despite facing flak from the Delhi High Court in 2014 for poor upkeep of playfields, civic agencies such as the three municipal corporations, NDMC, DDA, Delhi Cantonment and public works department haven’t done much to mend the flaws.

“Some facilities in these parks are like death traps. Almost all the swings and slides are in a pathetic condition. There are nails sticking out, there is no grass, and some parks have become the hub of anti-social elements,” said a report presented before the high court by the amicus curiae, Nidesh Gupta.

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