There is something odd about the public parks in Defence Housing Authority (DHA). They are well-maintained. The grass is trimmed. The jogging track is clean. There are no scattered wrappers of biscuits and chips. But there’s a sanitised feeling to the parks since children are not allowed to play inside.
According to the rules, children are not allowed to bring cricket bats, footballs, bicycles and other sporting goods to the parks in the area.
This has obviously irked parents, who tend to bring their children to the parks to play in the fresh air.
“Why would I come here if my children are not allowed to have fun?” asked a 28-year-old mother of a six-year-old boy outside Bukhari Park. “My kid won’t let me come for a walk otherwise.”
Elsewhere in Karachi, public parks are meant for everyone, including the elderly. The health conscious jog, friends talk their hearts out, children have boisterous games and romance blossoms as couples meet.
After a recent drive to renovate parks in the upscale housing area, the authorities have started enforcing the rules that prohibit people from bringing children who only want to play sports.
While the regulations have been in place for a while, the enforcement of these has been recently stepped up to stop children from running around and playing games. The retired army officials who are posted as security guards at parks in DHA still follow military discipline when it comes to implementing these orders.
There are over 28 public parks in the area managed by the DHA and Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC). Most of these are maintained by the CBC.
Boards have been erected outside the parks telling visitors not to let their kids play in the parks.
DHA’s Director Parks and Horticulture Lt Col (retd) Ghulam Sarwar says the complaints against the directive are baseless. “If we allow one parent to let children play, there will be hundreds more the next day and the place will turn into a playground,” he said. He seemed frustrated at the number of complainants who pour into his office. “People come here to jog. A ball hits someone and there is a protest at my office. How can I pacify everyone?”
The parks have separate play areas for the kids, he said. “We have to make sure that people follow rules, otherwise there will be chaos.”
A survey of six parks showed that the regulars include retirees who are there to jog. There are just a few swings and slides located at the corners of the parks. Hassan Anwar, the CBC official responsible for its parks, said children can’t be allowed to play in parks as it adds to the maintenance cost. “The area already faces a water shortage and we have a hard time maintaining it.”
He said the parks in DHA are better than those of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC). “Parks are not for playing cricket and football anyway. We have provided grounds for that,” he said. However, there are few sports grounds in DHA to play cricket or football.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.
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