The elusive play area in the city of Hyderabad
Mar 20, 2014
Source : The Times of India


HYDERABAD: The city has been expanding at an exponential rate and one can find supermarkets, gyms, hotels and shopping centres in almost every five kilometer radius. The city is stretching its limits in areas such as Kukatpally, Nizampet, Miyapur, Bachupally, Kompally, Shamirpet, Uppal, Attapur, Khajaguda, and Chandanagar. These areas are witnessing rapid proliferation of housing colonies be it individual villas, single block apartments or gated communities. Pick any part of the city whether it is the old city or the new city, one aspect which has not found space in most of the residential localities is a proper play area for children.

Dr Radhika Acharya of Deccan Hospital says, “It is important for young children to play in the real world it helps in both physical and psychological development of the child. Outdoor play allows a child to explore things around him or her. It gives them freedom to be loud, noisy and messy and spend some of their energy that is usually inappropriate and even annoying in indoors. Outdoor play-areas provide a wide range of learning opportunities to the children and offer sensory stimulation to their tender brains, which is critical for their holistic development. They can experience real emotions and have realistic sensory inputs such as beautiful sights, sounds, and textures which help these young children in the development of aesthetics and enrich their perceptual abilities.”

“Children’s direct social and individual experiences in nature in early to middle childhood help shape their environmental identity and guide their environmental actions. Playing outdoors reduces anxiety, increases attention span, improves listening and communication skills and increases persistence. Many research findings have repeatedly shown that sedentary indoor activities such as watching TV and playing video games can affect child’s perceptual abilities negatively. Obesity in children is directly related to sedentary leisure time activities of the children, which in turn affect their health negatively. Children may also develop vulnerability toward hypertension, diabetes and heart diseases,” adds Dr Radhika.

Since play areas play a pivotal role in shaping the personality of a child it is important that every residential area has a play area. The location of the play area is also equally important, because unless it is made an integral part of the residential area and is not used for the intended purpose the purpose of having a play area fails.

Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) have been working towards a greener Hyderabad and have created many green spaces like major parks, traffic islands, theme parks and colony parks. As per the data available on the GHMC website, there are 331 colony parks including the east zone, west zone, central zone, north zone, and south zone of Hyderabad. Many of these colony parks have been developed with the participation of the residents. From development to maintenance, the residents are involved in everything. But these parks are not equally distributed while some localities have two to three parks in proximity others do not have even a single park or play area.

These small colony parks or play areas are frequented by elderly or middle-aged people in the morning and evening, and also by college going students, but not by young children. The reason being parents do not feel safe to leave their children in parks which are close to roads, not necessarily arterial roads, even the roads inside lanes have vehicles criss-crossing at high speed. Mahajabeen Sultana, a homemaker who lives near Hitec City in single block apartment says, “We have around three colony parks or play areas in our area but we hardly find children playing in these parks. We do get to see elderly people walking in the park and middle-aged people playing badminton sometimes. I do not send my three-year-old to the park because I do not feel safe, as the main road is close to the park. If I am free I take him along or his grandparents take him to the park. But otherwise I prefer keeping him indoors.”

Hence depending on the location of the park, parents decide whether they can let their children play in these play areas. If the park is not close enough children end up playing in the by-lanes which can be hazardous for the children who keep dodging the vehicles.

That brings us to the question, what is an ideal play area like? The play areas in gated communities or societies built for employees working in central government or public sector undertakings such as defence colonies, BHEL, and other such colonies are away from the traffic and close to home. Parents living in these areas do not have to worry about the safety of their child. And if the areas are close enough parents can also spend time with the children in the play areas, instead of spending the time in going to the park and coming from the park.

Builders usually keep track of these issues. In gated communities, there are terrace gardens and play areas for children. most of the gated communities keep 10 per cent of built up area for children’s play area.

Dr Radhika says, “According to Stuart Lester and Russell of University of Gloucestershire UK, play is a fundamental right of young children and it enables them to form friendships and attachments to adults and to places, allowing for the development of familiarity and intimacy with both. It can provide opportunities for independent learning and building confidence, resilience, self-esteem and self-efficacy. Outdoor play can bring families closer together, strengthening parent-child relationships.”

Every child should get a chance to spend time in the natural environment irrespective of whether they live in a gated community or not. In the virtual world the learning is incomplete and the scope for imitation is inadequate. Every residential area should provide a play area which is accessible and well maintained.

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