The corporation has 14 parks under its jurisdiction. But none of them merits a rating

Scrap shops — that’s what the city parks are.

The Kochi Corporation maintains, if we can say that, 14 parks across the city. And all of them sport a repository of shattered playthings that seem to have been picked up from some war-torn country that faced heavy shelling.

The Subhash Park, which may be described as the green lungs of the city, is the best maintained of the lot. But there is hardly anything that kids can safely lay their hands on. It needs to be spiffed up to draw more people to its scenic setting. Here, what was broken a decade back still is.

With people on the rise in the city, parks and public spaces are badly in need of a makeover to provide breathing space to its denizens trapped in a cage of high-rises.

The recent move by the Kochi Corporation to allow more Floor Area Ratio for builders will have the city, growing haphazardly at the best of times, straining at its seams as there will not be any proportional increase in open spaces.

The condition of the Koithara Park in South Panampilly Nagar illustrates the plight of open spaces in the city. The park was inaugurated in January 2008. However, it was not opened to public until recently.

K. J. Sohan, Town Planning Standing Committee Chairman of the corporation, says: “It is time that the management of parks and public spaces in Kochi underwent a drastic change.”

He says though the corporation pays contract workers to maintain the parks, they have not been doing it well and the parks need to be improved.

The lack of a plan and goals for our parks is spotlighted by a decision by the corporation to allow the building of a shop inside the small park close to the Mattancherry Boat Jetty. The permission was given for building the shop despite the Archaeological Survey of India banning any building in the area.

Mr. Sohan says the corporation gave the go-ahead for the building despite objection from ASI and the matter was taken to court, which has now stayed it.

A senior official of the department of town planning says a city should have between 15 and 20 per cent of its total area as open spaces. However, a study of the city of Kochi showed that it has less than one per cent of its area as open spaces.

This, however, is made up by the presence of large water bodies like the Vembanad Lake, which helps the city breathe much easier. However, the official says most of the water bodies are not accessible to the public. For instance, private houses and private property block public access to the Vembanad Lake along some of the stretches on Marine Drive. The case of other water bodies is similar.

Town planning principles stipulate that green spaces and walkways should be built along the water bodies so that it benefits the public.

Mr. Sohan says parks and open spaces play a crucial role in building social relations. He pointed to the example of the Parade Ground in Fort Kochi, where hundreds of young people come to play football and cricket. Many of them are not known to each other until they come to the field for their recreation. These relations last a lifetime.

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