Playing sport comes at a price in Bengaluru

With the public playgrounds in the city shrinking with time, more sports enthusiasts are moving towards the artificial grounds, which come at a price. Reuben Varghese Kurien, who runs Bangalore Football Turf in east Bengaluru’s Hennur, said people are ready to pay for better facilities that offer safety.
One of the reasons for Bengaluru’s shrinking public spaces, especially public grounds, has been a result of poor planning and policies. (HT Photo)
One of the reasons for Bengaluru’s shrinking public spaces, especially public grounds, has been a result of poor planning and policies. (HT Photo)
Published on Sep 12, 2021 12:16 AM IST
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By, Bengaluru

Ashish Adhikari came to Bengaluru in 2018 after he got a job as a graphic designer in the city. A sport enthusiast, one of the first things Adhikari searched for in the city, after an apartment, was a football ground. The 26-year-old said everyone guided him towards football turfs in the city, which were good but playing there required shelling out money.

“Each game used to have around 10 people and the ground cost was 1,500 per hour. Every month, I ended up paying 900 for football and since I play badminton as well, my monthly expenses on sport were around 1,700 per month,” he said, adding that back home in Assam playing sports didn’t cost a penny.

With the public playgrounds in the city shrinking with time, more sports enthusiasts are moving towards the artificial grounds, which come at a price. Reuben Varghese Kurien, who runs Bangalore Football Turf in east Bengaluru’s Hennur, said people are ready to pay for better facilities that offer safety.

“Most of the public grounds in the city are crowded and chances of injuries are high because the grounds are not maintained. So, most of the customers want the flexibility – availability of a good-quality ground at a time convenient to them,” he said.

According to Kurien, there are more than 100 such grounds in Bengaluru and at least 90 of them were already existing when he launched his football turf in 2016. “There are at least 100 people playing here every day,” he said.

One of the reasons for Bengaluru’s shrinking public spaces, especially public grounds, has been a result of poor planning and policies. Ravindran DS, a former Indian Forest Service officer who conducted research on public spaces in Bangalore, said that over the period of time, Bengaluru was showing an alarming reduction in the available public space, which includes playgrounds.

“If you look at the Karnataka town country planning Act (1961), it said there should be at least 15% open area. In the development plans that came in the 1980s, 1990s, and in 2005, a similar percentage of public place was proposed. But it never happened,” he said.

The retired officer said that during his study in 2005, he found that Bengaluru was not anywhere near the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of having a 10 metre square area per person. “From having an 8 metre square per person in 1968, we had come down to around 1 metre square per person. It was a drastic drop. The built-up area in Bengaluru was around 71%, whereas it should have been 30%,” added the official.

He attributed the change to two reasons. Firstly, bad planning and secondly, a cultural change. “The governments have not been able to enforce the regulations they had brought in. Secondly, culturally speaking, Bengaluru didn’t have a ‘vertical growth’ with multiple apartments coming up until recently. When there was an explosion of population, the bad planning meant there was little public space available,” he said.

Leo Saldana, Bengaluru-based environmental activist, said the impact of not having a healthy ratio between open spaces and population was seen during the recent lockdowns. “Those living in congested neighborhoods suffered more (because of lack of access to public spaces). So far there is no study on its impact but a good way to assess the impact of lack of access to public spaces, for release of human energy, is the Nimhans’ reporting that from getting a few calls before lockdown, they are getting around 250 calls per day (during the lockdown) from distressed children,” he said.

Senior BBMP officials claimed that the city had around 256 public playgrounds. However, for a population over 10.2 million, these numbers are not enough, say activists. “We have identified more places that can be developed as playgrounds and we are in the process of developing them,” said a senior official of BBMP’s estate department. “But compared to many metros in the city, Bengaluru still has a large number of playgrounds. As the city is developing further, we are ensuring such facilities are part of the development plan,” the official added.

While BBMP’s claims get objections from activists, enthusiast like Adhikari has to shell out money to play any sport of his choice in the city and for those who cannot afford it, the option is to fight out for space in overcrowded playgrounds of Bengaluru.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Arun Dev is an Assistant Editor with the Karnataka bureau of Hindustan Times. A journalist for over 10 years, he has written extensively on crime and politics.

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