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September 26, 2010

Give playgrounds back to children


September 26, 2010

Going to the playground should be a fun experience with children. Youngsters with special needs often love going there. Children see the playground as an opportunity for fun, fresh air, and physical activity.
What going to the playground for children is like these days? They stumble over the unexpected dumped stuff or event going on there. Who plays in Pindi’s playgrounds? Not children! Strangely, many corners of the playgrounds in the city have been converted into garbage dumps, making it impossible for children to even enter the grounds, let alone playing.
College students for their tournaments use some of these spaces. Small children are not allowed to join them and play wherever they can, most often in front of their houses even as traffic flows by. What’s a worse, playground in many areas are encroached upon and converted for commercial purposes.
Many playgrounds, all over the city, especially in Gulzare-e-Quaid, are filled with litter, remains of construction material, and piles of bricks, crushed stone and sand and cement heaps. As a result, the children of the area are left without any space to play. Unfortunately, there seem to be no plans to give children back their spaces, and no committee to monitor playgrounds. If there are any, they have remained on paper or still in the pipeline.
Residents of the area point out that local councilors encourage their party men to use the playgrounds for different functions. “When we come to play with our friends in the playground beside our house, it’s usually occupied by drug addicts, rogue men, drifters and wedding party organizers. Many of them aren’t even from surrounding areas.
“Our children end up playing in front of homes or on terraces,” says Nusrat Rehmat, a college professor living in the area. Besides, many schools use playgrounds in their vicinity for regular physical education classes and that reduces space for games like football or cricket which children

love to play with friends after school. Unfortunately, there is no budgetary provision for providing playgrounds, even in new housing schemes.
“It’s difficult for us to find space to play. Our search takes us far and wide, with deadly consequences at times,” says Naveed Akram, a Class VIII student of a nearby school. “We’re a group of twenty-four boys who come to Gulzare-e-Quaid playground thrice a week to play cricket. But every time, it’s the same problem — there’s no space left for us as there’s always some tournament or the other or practice session of adults, or college students will be already playing there.
After 7 p.m., it’s less crowded but our parents don’t like us playing there after dusk as it’s not safe. We play on roads or in the jungle running parallel to Airport Link Road, but that is equally unsafe. There should be a separate playground, exclusively for children,” commented Aamir Khan, a 9th Class student, a schoolmate of Naveed Akram.
Faced with such scenarios often the playground visits become more fearsome than fun. The constructors are often found occupying children’s playgrounds, as their parking space-cum-warehouse. The children are forced to play on the lanes and by-lanes in the neighborhoods. Some of the boys play at the nearby small Park. I have seen playgrounds turning into cattle markets during Eid-ul-Azha.
Some inconsiderate residents use the playground as a private laundry area. They hang washed clothes all over the playground and the bushes nearby. Need for remedial mechanism to clear litter Ibne Ahmad Pindi, the poor cousin of Islamabad the Beautiful, continues to bear the forced load of the filth, stink and muck flowing down the Shah Khalid Colony Service Road.
The repulsive picture of garbage in the sewers and the killing stench offers no hope of respite because there is no corrective mechanism for clearing the litter. The area residents are the “end users” of the liquid poison that spreads and strangulates patches of the road. Much to the anguish of the residents, the garbage flows through densely populated residential areas of this city.
Sadly, the rotting garbage flows along the localities like Taajabad, Fazal Town, Faisal Colony, Gulzar-e-Quaid, Civil Aviation Housing Colony, Loi Bher Railway Colony etc. “Our lives are miserable and we don’t have a choice of moving out in the face of this criminal neglect by the authorities,” says Captain Naeem, a resident of Fazal Town.
Miseries continue unabated for thousands of residents living along the dreadful sewerage line passing through many residential areas. A random survey and interaction with a cross section of residents in these areas revealed that the civic authorities had created exit points of sewage at different points along the zigzag boundary shared with its poor cousin. The sewage from a sizeable number of housing societies is allowed unchecked to flow into the already stinking nullah.
During the monsoons, the swollen sewerage water enters houses that cause a sizeable loss to the buildings. Civic authority officials point out that the severely blocked nullah causes serious damage to the structures along its embankment. No cleaning work has been carried out till date. Joining the bandwagon of polluters, several departments too are contributing to this criminal neglect as the network of underground and even open pipes have openings in the flow.
Certain landmarks that show the stinking litter in true light include Taajabad, Fazal Town and near the entrance point of Gulzar-e-Quaid. Turning pitch dark, the polluted stream enters several streets turning walkers’ paradise into a nightmare. The noxious water glides through many street corners.
“The sickening view is a blot on the face of the city. On certain occasions, one has to gasp for whiff of fresh air”, says Hamid Baig, who has lived in this area for the last ten years. Towards the exit point of the Faisal Colony, the filth and thick domestic waste has settled down on the street.
Taking advantage of thick foliage along the stream, the people not living in that area come to dispose the domestic waste of other nearby localities on this site. Civic officials admit that even the sewage from the airport flows into the stream daily. Located only a few kilometers from the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, the polluted stream presents a horrible look as plastic waste, rotten vegetables and carcass lie scattered in the tract blocking the flow of even the dirty waters. During the wedding days the residents often put up blind panels to hide the horrible sight from the eyes of the guests.
Adding insult to the injury, the civic workers have made this spot a garbage collection and segregation centre. The repulsive look of the sick stream also gets hidden behind the wild growth of reeds in the stream passage during monsoon season. The passage of the dirty water too becomes difficult resulting in the expected horrible smell. Residents blame the wrong design of stone pitching the base of the nullah for the muck.

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