An entire generation of children in the capital are growing up unfamiliar with playgrounds, as around 84 percent residents of the capital’s city corporation area have no access to playground facilities, said urban planners at a discussion yesterday.
“Playgrounds are not a recreational, but rather a health facility for a community,” said Prof Adil Mohammed Khan, secretary general of Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP), at a discussion on “Playgrounds in Dhaka city” that BIP organised at its premises.
“Juvenile crimes and drug addiction have a direct co-relation with lack of playground facilities,” he said.
Of the 235 public playgrounds available inside the Dhaka city corporation area, only 42 are open to public, he said.
Citing examples of Dhanmondi Road-8 playground, Abahani playground and Kalabagan playground, Adil said at least 16 public playgrounds in the capital are under the grip of private organisations, denying free public access.
There are 141 playgrounds belonging to various institutions, 24 in government residential colonies and 12 as Eidgah grounds, he said.
The number of playgrounds does not mean much if they are not accessible to children, women and elderly people, he said, adding that like any other scheme, the government has to take a mega project to develop more playgrounds through land acquisition if necessary.
The 134-square kilometre city corporation area of the capital needs at least 1,400 more playgrounds, as estimated in proportion with population density, said Adil while presenting the findings of a research.
According to Detailed Area Plan of Dhaka city, a neighbourhood with 12,500 people needs at least two playgrounds, each measuring one acre, he said. A Dhaka dweller in the city corporation area has per capita open space less than one-ninth of what the World Health Organization requires -- nine square metres.
As such, modern townships like Purbachal New Town only has 15 percent of playground area of what it requires for the estimated 15-lakh population, he said.
Neighbourhoods like Mohammadia Housing and Adabar, with a population of nearly 4,00,000 in two wards, needs 63 playgrounds but there is not even one, he said; Kamrangirchar with a 2,30,000-strong population needing 37 is the same.
In Uttara Model Town where 2,38,584 people live, there are six playgrounds but it needs additional 38 in proportion with population density.
Citing the example of Purbachal and Uttara planned townships, BIP vice-president Prof Md Akter Mahmud said, “The ongoing development pattern indicates that creation and conservation of playgrounds are not a part of the development philosophy.”
If the government intends, the 600-acre Tejgaon old airport may be turned into a public space with playgrounds and parks in the heart of the city, he said.
Senior urban planner Shawkat Ali Khan and BIP vice-president Mohammad Fazle Reza Sumon also spoke, among others.