The lack of open spaces as well as playgrounds and parks in the capital city affects sports and physical activities of children, hampering their mental and physical development.
Dhaka city covers an area of about 306 square kilometers with over 20 million people. About half of this population comprises children below 18. Unfortunately, for this large number of children there are only six playgrounds, 21 parks, four children’s parks and three Eidgahs in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) area, while the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) area has only 28 parks and 12 playgrounds.
Experts, urban planners and environmentalists said the number of the playgrounds and parks is extremely inadequate compared to the need. They blamed the rapid and unplanned urbanisation for the lack of open spaces.
Talking to Bangladesh Post, Naima Akhter, Project Officer of Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust, said that there is no playground or park in 37 wards of Dhaka’s two city corporations out of 129 wards. However, the playground allotted for the people with disability has become dilapidated for a long time, she added.
However, most of the playgrounds and parks are not safe for children as intimate couples, vendors, sex workers and drug dealers or users are seen there.
Ziaur Rahman Litu, Senior Project Officer of Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust, and Farhana Zaman Liza of Dhaka International University (DIU), told Bangladesh Post that although there is no adequate playgrounds and parks in Dhaka city, they do not want to visit most of the parks due to the negative scenario of the places. Clean and transparent environment must be ensured there, they added.
Against this backdrop, the DNCC and the DSCC are now working to modernize about 40 playgrounds and parks in the capital. “We are thinking about large-scale public space in the city. However, there are some limitations and problems. We are working to solve these. The DNCC is working to preserve fields, parks and open spaces. We are working to ensure accessibility for all, including the people with disabilities, in the development of parks and playgrounds,” said Maqsood Hashem, chief urban planner of the DNCC.
Md. Sirajul Islam, chief urban planner of the DSCC, echoed Maqsood Hashem. Not all the playgrounds and parks in Dhaka city are under the two city corporations because the Public Works Department (PWD) and RAJUK also own some of the fields. A mapping is being done by listing all the playgrounds and parks in the city. Wards that do not have any field or park can be identified. The DSCC has a plan in this regard, he added.
Experts and environmentalists called upon the authorities concerned to take proper initiatives for preservation of playgrounds, parks and open spaces in the city. They said that steps should be taken to provide the facilities of playgrounds and parks in the wards where there is no playground or park on a priority basis.
Dr Adil Muhammad Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, said that it is often planned to set up commercial infrastructures by destroying the natural environment, playgrounds and parks. Such activities should be stopped.
The urban planner suggested that pocket open public space can be created as we have a shortage of space. All the authorities concerned have to work together to ensure an adequate playground and park in the city.
Farhana Rashid Tanu, founder and CEO of Bhumijs’ Limited, suggested experimentally creating some small public spaces. She said that infrastructure must be built as per the needs of people. Urban development must be planned according to the needs and requirements of low-income people.
Alongside the people of classes, women and disabled people face more suffering for the shortage of parks and open spaces. Gaus Piari, Director of WBB Trust, called upon the authorities of Dhaka’s city corporations to become cooperative to create opportunities for women and people with disabilities in the open spaces and ensure their safety.
Salma Mahbub, general secretary of the Bangladesh Society for Change and Advocacy Nexus (B-Scan), said that there is currently no access for disabled people to parks and playgrounds in Dhaka city. The accessibility of people with disabilities should be in development activities, she added.
Meanwhile, scarcity of playgrounds and parks forces the school students to be addicted to digital devices. So, playground is a prime need for children for their outdoor games and to save them from intent addiction, said experts.
Adil Mohammad Khan, Farhana Zaman Liza, Naima Akhter and others said that there is a relation between teenage crimes and shortage of playground facilities. So, access to parks and playgrounds must be ensured for all, including women, children and teens. The abandoned and unused areas in Dhaka city should be identified and turned into socialization sites with slight changes.