patrol beat

No parks, No play grounds- by Aarthi R/TNN

Playing `galli’ cricket in congested lanes and going for morning walks along busy roads is fun no more. The common man’s everyday experience has been borne out of the scientific study done by Bangalore Patrol. Even as the city expanded to 198 wards and repeated stress was placed on allocating more funds for parks and playgrounds in the BBMP budgets, Bangalore sadly lacks sufficient play and park spaces. Many places in old, central city areas now have more tutorial centres for kids than play areas.

Naturally, Bangalore has fared the worst in this parameter among those studied by Bangalore Patrol with the highest score being a 50%ish 5.54. That the city best known for its parks, earning it the sobriquet of `garden’ city is alarmingly behind on this parameter is a matter of grave concern.

It’s all about adequacy and access to parks and playgrounds in the one-time garden city. The result of the survey come as no surprise to Bangaloreans used to constantly seeing roads outside their houses converted into crude badminton courts and terraces atop huge apartments turning into hotspots for hide-and-seek and even football practices, sometimes leading to tragic consequences as in the recent case of Barazza, who fell from the terrace while playing.

Even Nagapura (Ward 67) that tops the overall ranking for Bangalore’s public amenities has scored just 5.54, that’s just average. Close behind are Yelahanka satellite town and Govindrajnagar wards with scores of 5.26 and 5.12 respectively. City mayor’s ward, Sarakki, ranks fifth overall with 5.04 – Just a few decimal points above Nandini layout, lead by the opposition leader M Nagaraj and below Vasanthnagar ward under Katta Jagadish, son of BWSSB minister Katta Subramanya Naidu.

Overall, 45% of the wards have scored between 2 and 5. Total 63 wards, out of the 198 have scored below one. This also includes the Jnana Bharathi and Kempegowda wards. While the top five wards score between 5 and 6, eight wards right down below on the report card have a disappointing zero-score. This includes Vannarpet, Nilasandra, Chalavadipalya, Varthuru, Rayapuram, Marathalli, Bellanduru, Chalavadipalya and Begur.

Moving on to the specifics, only 23 wards have a park within walking distance from any point in the ward. Simply put, you can access a park at 1 km distance from anywhere across the ward. Not just comfort zones like Jayanagar East and Vijaynagar, the list of perfect 10 scores under this parameter also includes wards with congested roads like Sanjaynagar, Ganganagar and Rajajinagar.

However, in places like Vannarpet, Nilasandra and Begur among others, it’s almost difficult to trace a decent park or even a crude playground even after long searches. The zero score for these wards comes as no surprise.

When it comes to adequacy of parks, the lower ranks exceed the toppers. 49 wards have a zero score clearly indicating inadequate number of parks in their areas. Yelahanka Satellite town, that’s among the newly added areas of BBMP, is the only ward with a perfect 10 score. A shame for garden city is seeing a majority of its wards score between 0 and 1. Wards like Lingarajapuram, Horamavu and Kempapura Agrahara score just 0.1 making them just better than those with zero. Even Herohalli and Gandhinagar wards that rank in top 10 under this category have a score just above 3.

Who can play here?
Less said the better about the plight of playgrounds across the city. They lack both in numbers and accessibility. The size and available space within the playground is another concern. Nagapura is the only ward out of the total 198 that offers a playground to its people within walking distance from any point across the ward. A total 61 wards have scored a 0 in this category. Unfortunately, this also includes Jnanabharathi ward that’s the main hub of university education for students in the city.

Yet another interesting observation of the survey is about the private playgrounds in the city. Almost all of them in the central city areas are well maintained and available in good numbers. But then, with majority of them owned and managed by schools and colleges, they are strictly open only to their students and staff. A classic example is the wards of East Bangalore that’s dotted with educational institutions. Yet, the common child living in these areas has no proper space to play and will have to choose the busy roads instead.
As for the numbers, there are 114 wards with a zero score that clearly indicates inadequacy. Even Yelahanka Satellite town that tops the rank-list has scored just 4.06. Jayanagar that follows drops down to a score of 2.36. Majority of the other wards have scored between 0 and 1.

How green are we?
The overall ranking throws out many misnomers. While Ward No 17, J P `Park’ ranks eighth overall with a score of just 4.8, Jayanagar, one of the oldest areas of South Bangalore, long known for its green spaces ranks further down at 42 with a score of just 3.2. Even Jayamahal ward that still preserves some of the oldest trees in the city ranks 48 with a score of 3.2. Jayanagar East ranks way below at 67th slot with a meagre score of 2.76.

No doubt, Raja Rajeshwari ward is dotted with parks. But then, it’s nowhere among the top 10 in any of the four indicators surveyed on this parameter. The main reason being the insufficient numbers, compared to the overall ward size. It’s a large ward and what it needs is better planning on the accessibility front. A stark contrast is Vasanthnagar. The congested ward is among the top few, both in terms of number and accessibility to its parks and playgrounds. Both, the low scores surely indicate that it’s still a story in progression. In fact, at many points, even a small narrow fenced area along a busy road, that’s very tiny to even be a small park, bears a big board saying `Aatada Maidana’ (Playground)!

Parks and playgrounds form the key areas for this extensive survey on the city’s public amenities. There’s a lot of technology that’s gone into confirming the layman’s observations. The key area of focus was the list of parks and playgrounds available with both the BBMP and BDA. All these properties were then physically located and its exact dimensions and related parameters were confirmed using satellite imagery.