All the eight newly merged zones lack an adequate number of playgrounds. With the addition of 33 playgrounds in the last one year, the situation was somewhat remedied. However, with just 36 playgrounds on the slate, these zones, which measure 252 sq.km., are still hopelessly short of what they ideally need. There is a huge discrepancy between these zones and the old city which has 228 playgrounds across 174 sq.km.
Tiruvottiyur zone has no playgrounds as per the records available with Chennai Corporation. The other new zones such as Perungudi, Alandur, Sholinganallur, Manali, Ambattur, Madhavaram and Valasaravakkam are also short on playgrounds. Documents pertaining to land earmarked for playgrounds in such zones have not been handed over by the erstwhile local body to the Chennai Corporation.
“Many residents in our ward have been demanding more playgrounds for children. Corporation cites lack of big parcels of land for failure to act on this. We have requested the government for a 3.5-acre piece of land in Nettukuppam belonging to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board for creation of a playground. The Fisheries Department owns large parcels of land in the zone, out of which playgrounds may be created,” said A.Ezhilarasi, councillor of ward 1 in Tiruvottiyur.
“These playgrounds can also serve as assembly points during emergency situations; temporary shelters could be created,” said N. Mathavan, a disaster management expert.
Urban planners point out that organised growth of the old city during the 1950s and 1960s, which was orchestrated by the City Improvement Trust, contributed to an increase in playgrounds.
However, in the newly added areas, unplanned urban development leaves little space for playgrounds. Added areas have a large number of norm-flouting unapproved layouts that practically rule out the possibility of creating playgrounds. Many records pertaining to the 10 per cent OSR land reserved for large projects too have not been handed over to the Chennai Corporation.
Last year, the civic agency began the process of making a list of open spaces suitable for creation of playgrounds in the newly added zones of Tiruvottiyur, Manali, Madhavaram, Ambattur, Valasaravakkam, Alandur, Perungudi and Sholinganallur. But a chunk of the lands are too small to be turned into playgrounds. Another contributing factor is the inability of the Chennai Corporation to retrieve from erstwhile local bodies, land that lend themselves to establishment of playgrounds.