I happened to visit “Children’s Park” in New Delhi’s India Gate area and was appalled at the callousness with which the facilities have been provided there. The children’s outdoor play equipment in particular appeared to be more of torture equipment used in medieval periods rather than joyful play elements.
Since I had often played there as a child myself, it was rather disappointing to see the total lack of maintenance and the whole place seemed to convey a sense of disdain and utter disregard towards the blossoming generation.
The place was full of children of various ages and the lack of maintenance of the place clearly indicated that there was an accident waiting to happen.
I tried to read up on any documentation regarding any guidelines whatsoever in India, for child safety norms for outdoor play activity, but I was unable to find it. I did however find a detailed document from “Department of Health and Community services in Newfoundland.” (http://www.gov.nl.ca/cyfs/publications/childcare/outdoor_play_area_standards.pdf)
It was obvious to me, even before going through it that the facilities in Children’s Park would not match up to the guidelines which I had found, but mentioned below are some of the discrepancies I could recall were missing from the Park:
- USE OF FINE SAND AS PROTECTIVE MATERIAL
Fine sand is not recommended as a protective surfacing material in on-site outdoor play areas. If it is possible to purchase another type of protective surfacing material, it is advisable to do so. Fine sand is difficult to maintain. In addition, it is abrasive and can cause injury to children if it gets in their eyes.
- CRAWL SPACES
Crawl spaces are defined as spaces under four feet (1.2 m) high where children can access and adults cannot access. These crawl spaces must be enclosed.
- SHARP EDGES OF SLIDES/ PLAY EQUIPMENT
Remove or cover any sharp points or edges. Any bolt that extends beyond the nut must be replaced with a shorter bolt, or covered with an acorn nut or plastic cap.
- SWINGS, SLIDES AND SEESAWS
Swings must have no open-ended or ‘S-shaped’ hooks. Closed hooks are necessary. Make sure that no part of a play structure could trap a child’s head or limbs. Seesaws must have wooden blocks or rubber tires placed on the underside of the seats to prevent feet from getting caught. Remember that slides can become too hot for safe use. Place them in the shade or facing away from the sun.
- MAINTENANCE IS A MUST
Chains for swings, rings, and hand holds, etc. must be checked frequently for smooth functioning and for signs of wear, weakness or rust. Replace them when necessary.Use non-toxic paints when repainting any children’s product. Take care of rusted parts as soon as possible. The surface of slides must be smooth and show no wear and there must be no gaps, pinch points, or rough edges in the sliding surface. Maintenance of protective surfacing materials is essential. If the required depth of surfacing materials is not maintained then these surfaces are not considered safe.
Here, I am not even mentioning the requirement of easily visible first aid areas, adult supervisory staff and other requirements such as checklists for daily, monthly and seasonal inspections. I could not get even a glimpse of a person in authority except for the guards at the entrance who insisted that no one could bring any home-made eatables inside the park, although you could buy some from the vendors near the gate.
A possible, but rather silly defence of the indefensible scenario described above is that they have kept the “entry free”. How horrible does that sound – A free entry to cause grievous injury to the children of this country.
Ironically this park is located in proximity to the several prestigious offices of the country, such as the President’s Residence, the highest offices of the Ministries, the highest offices of Judiciary and the Bureaucracy – Perhaps rightly so, it serves to show just how concerned we are about our children.
Another equally ironical dimension to this grotesque scenario is the thinking of some of the parents themselves. While in most places no person in their right mind will even allow a child into this park, the parents seem to take pride, when the child gets hurt, claiming that the child is “growing up” or “getting tough”.
In this era of rapid urbanization, green spaces and green lungs are scarce but invaluable assets to any city. Effective design, maintenance and a change in our mindset is vital for the survival of both the green spaces as well as the population residing in the urban areas.