Urbanisation has drastically reduced the number of playgrounds in the capital. Psychologists warn this is negatively impacting children's physical and mental development.
They say juvenile crime levels are closely connected with lack of playgrounds, parks, and open spaces.
According to a Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) survey, as part of formulating the revised detailed area plan (DAP), 37 out of 129 wards in Dhaka's two city corporations have no playgrounds or parks. Considering the area of Dhaka, parks and playgrounds should account for 1,137 acres and 1,876 acres of area, in that order.
But there are parks on only 271 acres of area, and playgrounds on 294 acres.
Most of these parks and playgrounds remain in a sorry state. They are not open to all. Those that are open to everyone are not suitable for sports. Their surroundings are full of weeds and even a little rain causes waterlogging.
According to the survey, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has playgrounds and parks in only 16 out of its 54 wards and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) has playgrounds and parks in only 7 out of 75 its wards. Among the 23 wards that have parks or playgrounds, 7 are left with a very small amount of space for parks.
In DNCC ward 11, the total amount of park area is 0.22 acre, while wards 26, 29 and 36 of the Dhaka North have 0.10 acre, 0.61 acre and 0.33 acre of park spaces, respectively. On the other hand, in wards 10, 19 and 36 of the DSCC, the total park area is 0.06 acre, 0.19 acre and 0.07 acre, respectively.
Besides, the total area of playgrounds in each of the 18 wards of the two city corporations is less than one acre.
Twenty-seven wards in Dhaka South and 10 wards in Dhaka North have neither any park nor a playground. These are wards no. 2, 3, 16, 25, 28, 34, 35, 37, 46, 48, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 60, 61, 62, 64, 67, 71, 72, 73, 74 and 75 of the DSCC and wards no. 21, 23, 25, 30, 35, 37, 38, 39, 41 and 48 of the DNCC.
Urban planners say there is no alternative but to renovate the existing parks and playgrounds as well as develop new ones under mega projects through land acquisition and so implement ward-based playground plans.
Only a few of the playgrounds have been renovated while work is underway in the rest. Children and youngsters cannot play there as construction materials take up much of the ground. This is forcing them to spend most of their time at home. Parks remain almost deserted as well.
"There is no playground or park near my house," Samiran Begum, a resident of Madhya Badda, said. She sometimes takes her eight-year-old child out and they just walk on the street.
It is suffocating for children to stay home all day, she said.
Young people from different areas go to the trade fair venue in Mirpur's Agargaon to play on Friday and Saturday mornings. They play cricket and football, but they do not get much space.
Tanib, who came from Dhanmondi with his friends to play, said they have to come early in the morning and occupy their space to play.
Otherwise, it gets crowded because many other groups come here, he said.
Juel Khan, who went there from Kazipara, said many often sustain injuries because of construction materials lying around.
The World Health Organisation says each person in a city needs about nine square metres of open space in an area and this should be a park or a playground. But in Dhaka city, this space is less than one square metre for every person.
A recent survey by the Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) said at least 2,000 parks and 4,000 open fields are needed for about 2.5 crore people living in areas under the two city corporations and their area should be a minimum of one acre.
But there are only 235 playgrounds under the two city corporations and 141 of them are institutional fields. Only 42 playgrounds are open to the public. Besides, there are 17 public grounds, 24 residential colony grounds and 12 Eidgah grounds.
What is most worrying is that there are no playgrounds for girls. Girls can play in only 7% of the playgrounds.
Urban planners and researchers say parents are not interested in sending their children to play if the place is over half a mile away. Besides, children do not want to go to playgrounds if they have to cross major roads and it is not safe for them. It is thus necessary to build playgrounds in neighbourhoods.
Urban planner Dr Adil Mahmud Khan said it is important to build age-based playgrounds for both men and women while there should be separate playgrounds for children and women.
There can be at least one playground for girls in each ward, and government women's school and college grounds may be prioritised for that, he said.
Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), told The Business Standard the DSCC had taken initiatives to build at least one playground in each ward.
He said the corporation would do it as part of a long-term plan if the required space cannot be managed.
"We have already recovered occupied land in five places under different wards, and will build playgrounds and parks there. Several playgrounds and parks have been modernised and there are more in the pipeline."
Dhaka South sources say 11 of the 18 parks in the DSCC area have been prepared and 10 have been opened to the public. Besides, three of the 10 playgrounds have been built. Bashabo sand field and Bhuiyan field projects funded by the World Bank are underway.
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) is using a playground in the DSCC area. DSCC officials said they had asked RAB several times to free it but the latter has not complied yet.