Parks across Delhi to reopen, with curbs aplenty
More than 14,000 parks in the Capital, including the ones in residential neighbourhoods, will be opened in the next two days -- but with certain riders and restricted timings to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The park can be accessed for three hours each in mornings and evenings -- between 7-10 am and 3:30-6:30pm. People above 65 years of age and children younger than 10 will not be allowed and those with chronic diseases have been advised to stay away.
Masks will be compulsory and so will be other Covid-related health protocols such as social distancing. The open gym equipment, swings and group yoga or exercise sessions are prohibited.
The municipalities, which do not have enough enforcement staff, expect people to voluntarily follow the rules.
The three municipal corporations of Delhi -- south, north and east -- on Thursday took the decision to open parks after the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) brought out a similar order on Wednesday and opened Lodhi Garden, Nehru Park and Talkatora Garden.
“We had been getting many requests to open these parks. People need fresh air and exercising is vital to maintain immunity. We got to know that a huge number of walkers thronged the Lal Bagh Botanical Garden in Bengaluru when it reopened on Tuesday. Hence, we decided to open our parks with some restrictions from Friday,” said Ashish Priyadarshi, director of horticulture department, north corporation.
The north corporation has 6,095 parks spread over 2,200 acres, including Ajmal Khan Park in Karol Bagh. The East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) will open its 2,097 parks -- the largest and most popular of which are Jheel Park near the Welcome Metro Station, Mahila Park in Trilokpuri and Bahubali Enclave Park near Karkardooma Court -- from Saturday.
“We cannot do a thermal scanning of people visitors nor can our limited number of security guards enforce social distancing. Users will have to do self-restriction for their own good,” said RK Singh, chief of horticulture in EDMC.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) will open its parks. But the popular ‘Waste to Wonder’ park near Sarai Kale Khan and ‘Nandan Van’ in Greater Kailash will remain shut. “The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in its May 18 order, said entertainment parks should remain shut till May 31. So, we will keep these two closed for now. Our 6,000 colony parks will be open from Friday,” Alok Singh, horticulture chief, SDMC, said.
The six functional biodiversity parks of Delhi -- Yamuna Biodiversity Park near Wazirabad, Aravalli Biodiversity Park near Vasant Kunj, Tilpath Valley near Haryana border, Tughlaqabad Biodiversity Park, Neela Hauz and Kamla Nehru Ridge -- will stay closed till May 31.
“Ironically, Friday (May 22) is International Biodiversity Day, which we used to celebrate with a lot of fanfare holding lectures for students. We used to tell them that disrupting healthy ecosystems such as forests through tree felling leads to more contact between wildlife and humans, leading to zoonotic diseases. Covid-19 is one of them,” said Faiyaz Khudsar, scientist in-charge at the Yamuna Biodiversity Park.
M Shah Hussain, scientist in-charge at Aravalli Biodiversity Park, said their parks are anyway serving the “ecological purpose for now.” “Our parks are providing oxygen and controlling the city’s temperature. When the government allows, we will open up for the public as well,” he said.
Lodhi Garden got 350-400 walkers and joggers after nearly two months on Thursday. Nirbhaya Tiwari, an evening shift guard on its gate number 1, said they were required to brief visitors about the norms. “Everyone has to wear a mask and no one is allowed to sit in the garden. We are not allowing people above 60 years and children below 10 years. All toilets are being sanitised and arrangements of water and hand wash are made,” he said.
Only four gates are allowed to remain open between 7 am and 10 am and 3:30 pm and 6:30 pm. “Only gate number 1, 3, 4 and 7 are open,” Tiwari said.
Harpreet Kurwi, an architect from Safdarjung Enclave, arrived at Lodhi garden around 4:30 pm. Kurwi, a regular visitor till the lockdown was announced, said, “It’s very suffocating at home for regular walkers like us. When I got to know that the park is opening I got so excited. It feels refreshing,” he said.
Another regular visitor, Paras Arora, who works in Gol Market, said he walked for 30 minutes on the first day after the lockdown. “The lockdown has made us very lazy. I could walk for only 30 minutes today. It’s a little difficult because of the mask,” he said.
Priya Singh, a housemaker from Lodhi colony, said, “I had come twice in the last two weeks to check with the guard here if they are opening the park. It’s a big relief today,” she said.