Dhaka, Sunday, April 22, 2018

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Dhaka children choose streets as alternatives to playgrounds

DHAKA, March 19, 2018 (BSS) - Despite believing in the notion that there is no alternative to sports to maintain natural mental and physical growth of the children, a sense of insecurity forces parents of capital Dhaka's children not to permit their kids to play cricket or football outside their residences on holidays.

Hasan Mahmud, an eighth-grader of Karataitola High School, goes crazy on holidays to play cricket outside. He eagerly waits for Friday afternoon because on that day opportunity comes to him to play cricket with friends but his parents are opposed to his natural way of fulfilling his desire to play outside.

It is not because that his parents do not want their son to playing cricket but they restrain him from playing cricket on Doyaganj-Sayedabad connecting road amidst vehicular movement due to lack of safety on the roads.

"It's very risky to play cricket on the road. Accident can happen anytime. How could we allow him?" Shamim Mahmud, Hasan's father, said while talking to this correspondent.

A recent survey by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC), only 2 percent children of the capital have the access to playground.

Owing to negligence of authorities concerned, over the years playgrounds and parks have been destroyed in Dhaka leaving no space for children to play, a prerequisite for building a healthy nation.

As a result, thousands of children like Hasan have chosen roads as alternatives to playgrounds or open spaces for their amusement.

Lack of sports or physical activities creates a huge setback in the children's physical and mental growth and it seems to be one of the major reasons behind the current uptrend graph of country's child obesity. But the capitals urban kids are not getting space for playing neither at schools nor at their neighbourhoods.

Scarcity of playgrounds forces the children to be addicted to digital devices like tab, laptop and mobile phone. Such addiction is making the children obese and obstructing mental growth.

Lack of playgrounds is forcing the city dwellers to opt for commercial amusement parks to meet their children's want of sports. When school authorities are charging high tuition fees from the school goers, they are least bothered to arrange sufficient facilities for games and sports for children.

Specially, playground is one of the most desired things for children. But there is rarely any school that has a playground, said Azhar Uddin, a government employee.

Girl children are the worst sufferers as they neither get any scope to play at schools nor on local streets, said parents. "My son play cricket on streets though I don't like it. But my daughter does not have anything to do during her leisure other than watching television or using internet," said Motahar Hossain, a trader in Mirhazirbagh area of old Dhaka.

"While developed countries are concentrating on creating spaces for playing and physical works, children in Bangladesh are growing in an unhealthy situation," he said venting his frustration.

Urban expert Prof Nazrul Islam says every 10,000 city residents need an open space of four acres -- park or playground -- for healthy growth of children and prevention of diseases related to physical activities.

Article 31(1) of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC 1989), says that all state parties are responsible to ensure children's right to 'play' and their 'recreation.'

Bangladesh ratified the convention. In 2000, the government approved the law for conserving playgrounds, open spaces, parks and natural water bodies in the mega-cities, divisional and district towns.

The Act basically imposes requirement of mandatory approval for changing existing land use of playgrounds, open spaces, parks and natural water bodies, and has a provision for punishment of up to five years of jail term or a fine of maximum Taka 50,000 for violation of enacted rules.

However, the destruction of playgrounds and parks continues. On the other hand, most of the high-rise apartments of the capital do not have sport facilities as the Real Estate Development and Management Act 2010, does not mandate playing facilities within the high-rise compound.

Environmentalists claim that at least 10 parks out of the 54 surviving ones in the entire Dhaka city were replaced with a community centre, a kitchen market, a mosque, a rickshaw garage or a truck parking lot, mostly by the city corporation itself, while some others were threatened.

The good news is Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) has taken up projects to construct 19 parks and 12 playgrounds, said its officials to this correspondent. A total of Taka 76 crore will be spent on the parks and Tk 15 crore on the playgrounds, they said.

According to experts, 93 parks are necessary in Dhaka city, one for each of the 93 wards. Before the city was split into two parts in 2011, DCC had 54 parks on its official list.

Former Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) mayor Annisul Huq in different programme previously said he had planned to set up parks and playgrounds around the city.

Child health experts and researches think that playing games and physical activities help social cohesion and developing resilience apart from developing physical, cognitive, social and mental health.