Lack of children’s parks in Dhaka city
I was born and brought up in a congested area of Mirpur. I still remember there were sufficient bare lands in the beginning of ‘90s. At the age of 10, I used to ride my bicycle there while accompanying senior brothers. Crickets, football, bomb bursting (hitting one another with a tennis ball) were in our regular chart. Winter season was the time for badminton. Within next 10 years, those lands started to get captured by the mushrooming business of property developers.
Now I can hardly see a playground or fields the same locality. Though Mirpur is overcrowded, but the scenario is same in other areas too. No playground and park for the children. I feel pity when I see my cousins and younger siblings grow up in the apartment cages. A lot of people mock these children as ‘Farm-er Murgi’ without considering the infrastructural circumstances of Dhaka making them like that. The flow of urbanisation is so strong in Dhaka that we prefer to have a skyscraper instead of a park. One or two parks are still there in Dhaka but parents do not feel safe to send their children there, given the atmosphere of the parks. Even more pathetic is that most of the private schools do not have playgrounds for the students. The scope for outdoor activities is so limited that children are finding substitutes being glued to computer and playing games on Play Stations. So, whole day they remain indoors while at school and coaching and they continue to do the same after returning home when they are playing video or computer games. If this is the situation, how can the children have healthy mental and physical development? Another side effect would be the obesity issue due to a lack of physical activity. Nowadays, more that 25% of these children are suffering from obesity problem.
I can refer to a small discussion with one of my work friends who has an eight year old boy and lives in Dhaka city. Since there is no park in her neighbourhood, she needs to spend on gadgets for her son to remain busy with. Whenever he gets time from study, he gets engaged with his laptop and ipad. She can feel that his attachment with family and relatives is becoming increasingly less as he is busy with his devices. Her son doesn’t have the scope to indulge in outdoor activities given their locality. At the best, his outings include family gatherings with parents which he views as some sort of punishment.
The lack of an adequate number of playgrounds may not seem like a serious problem but it can lead to grave issues in the future. Since the children are the future of our nation, I would expect that the relevant authorities would treat this issue seriously for the sake of the betterment of our future generation.
Executive, CIMA Bangladesh
THE open spaces of Dhaka city is shrinking day by day. Earlier there were some open spaces where children used to play but now the number has reduced drastically within the capital. Although the population is growing, the land area of Dhaka city is not increasing and the urban scene is aggravating.
The city life for children follows the same monotonous schedule dominated with schools until afternoon and playing indoor video games during leisure at home or at friends’ places. Children are found spending maximum time being trapped within the boundaries of four walls sitting before television and computer which has negative impacts on their physical and mental well being. During my childhood, I saw several open fields where high-rise buildings and markets now stand. Nowadays empty spaces are used for parking of vehicles.
Due to the absence of children’s parks, most children are getting lazier due to little physical activity. Most of the schools are also built without play grounds or play areas. This limits children to play those games that require a lot of physical movement. Being stuck indoor also have to children finding little interest in their studies.
As we know, parks and open spaces act as the city’s lungs. When these green spaces are absent, the city starts to die out. To actively address this situation, the authorities concerned should immediately free all the occupied open spaces and parks to save the city, its people and to provide a place for children to spend quality time and enjoy healthy recreation. Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan secretary Mohammad Abdul Martin said ‘Encroachers try to gobble up the green spaces like the Nayabazar Park by taking advantage of the corporation’s apathy. If the authorities concerned cannot save the parks, the government should handover the responsibility to somebody else’.
It is sad to know that only 21 play grounds are available for nearly twenty million people of Dhaka city. I think the government should identify open spaces and fields and also take steps to preserve those; otherwise in no time, we will witness their total disappearance.
University of Development Alternative
IT IS said that children are the future of nation. So it is our responsibility to ensure their rights. Beside other rights like- education, food, treatment and residence, access to playground and parks for their healthy physical and mental growth is also something they need and deserve. We know that Dhaka is a crowded capital. There are more residents than the land in the city can accommodate. Though there are many schools for children, there is a lack of children parks in Dhaka city. Many schools don’t even have facilities of playground for them. Schools, camps, theme parks, children’s activity centres and other facilities have a duty to supervise children and prevent them from engaging in dangerous activities within their respective premises.
Dhaka has only one public sector children’s park called Shishu Park at Shahbagh. There are also some other children parks in the city, but overall the number is not sufficient. In private sector, some companies have built indoor artificial facilities for children activities but they are too expensive. Majority people cannot afford them due to financial constraints.
Children in Dhaka are missing out on outdoor sports because due to a shortage of parks and fields. Unplanned construction of numerous dwellings and commercial structures across the municipal area has eaten up the open spaces while the authorities seem to remain indifferent to the necessity of children’s outdoor recreation. Unplanned construction of buildings over the recent years has turned Dhaka into a concrete jungle. As a result, children in the town are deprived of recreation facilities due to a lack of sufficient playgrounds. Majority of the school going children spend quite hours watching television, especially Hindi series on different channels. The most dangerous habits they have developed is they have become addiction to video games and internet as there is no playground or open space near their hmes or within their neighbourhood. The situation is not conducive to smooth physical and mental development of the children as observed by doctors and guardians. Where will they go to play?
It was hard for me to ever imagine my childhood without the neighbourhood park. The situation is tragic for children of this generation.
Avit Kumar Saha
I BECOME frequently anxious about the monotonous life of the children living in Dhaka city. I used to go to provide tuition and the young students were were always busy with TV, computer and mobile. Most of them use spectacles from a very early age. But I’ll not blame the innocent children because they have nothing to do in their spare time. The number of children parks is not sufficient in this mega city and those which exist are in deplorable conditions. The limited number of children parks is always crowded and it is another problem to get in queue and to hop on to rides. So they are not interested to go to those crowded places, rather they would indulge to play indoor games on computers, video consoles and other modern technologies. They remain confined within the apartment flats. Their eye sight is becoming poor as they spend too much time in front of TV, using computers and mobile phones. We have no other choice in lieu of that. The few children parks in the city are not modern and given their environment, they don’t attract the children or their guardians. Children of this era now want the newer one and more children parks than now the city possesses.
Shishu Park is the only public sector children’s amusement park, situated in Shahbagh. The 12 rides of the park include a toy train, a merry-go-round and a number of wheel-based rides. It draws about 6,000 visitors per day day. During the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays, the number of visitors reach up to 35,000. It becomes so crowded. This place has lost its charm and is no longer interesting to children or adolescents. And only 12 rides are not adequate for children’s amusement. There are other parks like Shishu Mela and a children park in Tongi. But we have to admit that these are insufficient to meet the demands of the urban children. There is an absence of playgrounds in most of the neighbourhood. Most of the 75 public parks and playgrounds in the Dhaka city are in dire conditions. Ideally, a city should have at least 10 to 25 per cent open and green spaces, according to experts. But data indicates that Dhaka’s old town has 5 per cent while new town has 12 per cent green spaces. Of the 75 parks and playgrounds, the two city corporations of Dhaka (North and South) own 47 parks while the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) owns 20 and the housing and public works directorate four. In view of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan secretary Mohammad Abdul Matin, ‘Parks, open spaces and gardens act as the city’s lungs’.
When these green spaces are absent, the city starts to gradually die. The authorities concerned should immediately free all parks and open spaces to save the city and provide a place for children and others. Many parks and playgrounds in the capital are the prime targets of land grabbers. Sometimes local residents degrade a park by using it as their dumping ground as well as a parking lot. On the other hand, homeless people often occupy parks and make them unhygienic.
The government ought to set up more children’s parks in the city, considering the well being of children. Having very limited or no options of spending their leisure through outdoor activities, they become addicted to the virtual world of internet and gaming gadgets. Thus a child’s brains remain in certain ways as they are stuck indoors and their brain cannot develop fully. Those children growing up in the rural area at least can play and run across green fields. To aid in children’s mental and physical growth, developing children’s parks is the only remedy to break the isolation they feel in the monotonous city. Though Fantasy Kingdom, Nandon Park, Moon Park, Togi World offer some opportunities of recreation to the children, those are actually away from the city. There must be some more children’s parks and accessible green spaces within the city area. Though it’s a great concern for every parent, they don’t raise their voices or create pressure so that the government feels obliged to set up modern children’s parks.
The children cannot call a strike or a hartal to put forward their demands. So on behalf of the innocent children, we have to approach this subject and it’s our duty to give them more facilities for their proper upbringing. It’s high time for everybody to do their part and make sure that some green spaces are saved for the children; otherwise the children will become technology-centric only, devoid of a mind with fresh idea. I would like to urge the government to give the right to the children who are eagerly waiting for their simple demand to be fulfilled.
Bangladesh University of Textiles
CHILDREN do not come out to play anymore and the elderly have given up on their morning walks at 0.33-acre Nayabazar Park in old Dhaka’s English Road area. Once an ‘oasis’ in the middle of the densely-populated concrete jungle, this park has turned into a garbage dump and a parking lot for auto-rickshaws, human haulers and mini trucks these days. The civic authorities, however, have failed to reclaim the patch of green for the residents. The story is similar for most of the 47 other parks under the jurisdiction of Dhaka South City Corporation.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Mehtab Khanom, a professor of psychology at Dhaka University, said, ‘Lack of playgrounds hinders children’s mental, social and physical growth’.
The chief estate officer of the city corporation, Moshiar Rahman, said, ‘I have no idea about the numbers of playgrounds under illegal occupants but so far I know those are small in number’. His ignorance is sad and pathetic. Nobody here is ready to take any responsibility and take an action that will be useful.
Hurdco International School
CHILDREN’S hearts are like the hearts of birds. They have a flair for flying. When they are about to fly, the patchy urbanisation stalls them ultimately.
As recreation, they ought to be playing blind man’s bluff, ha-du-du but instead they have to stare outside through windows of the flats they live in. The children of Dhaka city are actually trapped in home-cages.
We say, the prime object of institutional education is mental evolution. That’s why Dhaka is becoming replete with schools and colleges. It’s also true that recreation helps in mental evolution. A park is important for children’s recreation. Hence should we not pay attention in building adequate parks for children?
Children in Dhaka are becoming television-oriented owing to lack of open space for outdoor activities. Unfortunately, children are enjoying all sorts of entertainment typical to those who are more mature in age. As a result, variety of complex thinking is muscling their immature minds. On the contrary, a luring park as diversion renders amusement and it teaches the children that diversion is for a specific portion of time into the bargain. The television is at hand whereas the park is not.
Children’s park can also be defined as an unparalleled centre of learning with delight. It may contain a variety of flora and fauna, small scale models of world famous architectures, relics etc, which children can explore and learn about.
Building a children’s park is not sufficient; children must be motivated to spend their time or leisure hours playing in the park. To inspire them, I think the following measures can be taken:
Encouragement by guardians and teachersDistinctive and convenient transport to visit the parks Good location for the park and easy accessibilityAdding new items of recreation in the park gradually, as the same type of things can become monotonous and cease t be attractive for visiting more than once or twice.
Dhaka city has already earned the title of an ‘unplanned city’ for the failure to protect an environmental and liveable balance. It is the result of a monotonous trend towards commercial establishments. We still have time at hand to divert Dhaka from this dire course. What Dhaka needs is a land management board, which will address the needs of its residents including those of children.
M Sulaiman Husain
Chakaria, Cox’s Bazar