The death of a child at a park in Islamabad, after a jumping castle was lifted away by strong winds, has led authorities in the capital to impose a ban on similar equipment set up in various parks. The horrific accident is a tragedy of the worst kind; a nightmare that the family and many others present on the spot will never forget. But is the best way to handle it to ban swings, slides and other items intended to offer relatively cost effective recreation to children in a situation where there are far too few opportunities for such entertainment?
Short-term bans are easy to slap into place. They are rarely sustained. It will not be long before, in response to demand, the play items make a return. What we need is measures to ensure greater public safety on a longer-term basis. Accidents have taken place before at parks. Several in Lahore over past years have resulted in the loss of life. Others have escaped with injuries. Despite warnings most owners of such venues have been able to escape scot-free.
We need legislation to regulate the setting up of amusement centres and the quality of rides installed at them. This is especially important as more and more such parks are coming up in many places. There are virtually no laws in place to determine what checks and safeguards need to be put in place before setting up commercial enterprises. Water parks have no lifeguards, roller-coasters run along rusty rails and there are few safety warnings.
Authorities need to do more to safeguard our children. The problem is not with the existence of equipment but the manner in which it is put up and the lack of adequate maintenance. These issues need to be looked into now, before we face yet another unnecessary tragedy.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 16th, 2010.
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