Society

On a shared turf

A multi-sport arena created by a gated community at MRC Nagar in Raja Annamalaipuram. Photo: Special Arrangement   

Past a population threshold, a gated community has at the least, one teenager fancying oneself as the next Ravichandran Ashwin. The next Mithali Raj. The next PV Sindhu. The next Ajith Lal. The next Geethu Jose. And there is the masters’ circuit to boot — the hyperlocal Bhutias and Tendulkars spoiling for a go at a sport they once adorned.

So, multifarious sporting aspirations stamped with the same address is usually a fact of big-community living. A residents’ welfare association has its work cut out when these aspirations have to be accommodated in a measly 2000 sq.ft or thereabouts. The pitch is further queered when the development of this space is contingent upon meeting stipulations from the local civic body.

Wedged into a similar situation, Rani Meyyammai Towers at MRC Nagar in Raja Annamalaipuram, with its 300-plus units, found its answer in a synthetic-multi-purpose turf.

Residents used this facility at their gated community in the days after its inauguration when Coronavirus cases were on the decline. With the ongoing surge in cases, the facility has been temporarily closed. Photo: Special Arrangement

Residents used this facility at their gated community in the days after its inauguration when Coronavirus cases were on the decline. With the ongoing surge in cases, the facility has been temporarily closed. Photo: Special Arrangement  

As J. Madhan, secretary, Rani Meyyammai Towers Residents Welfare Association puts it, when the question of developing a Greater Chennai Corporation park at the community’s OSR land came up, the idea of a multi-purpose turf was nowhere on the horizon.

(In early March this year, the community unwrapped the facility in a soft launch. The sudden surge in Coronavirus led it to be temporarily closed on April 6.)

The exercise largely began when RMT parents were plunged into depression over their inability to control their fledglings’ gadget usage.

A need was felt to provide older as well as the younger children with an outdoor-space that would appeal to both. It had to be within the safe confines of the community. Not only that, the facility had to also serve every other age group, so that the entire community could be co-opted into the project.

A time table
  • The management committee at Rani Meyyammai Towers has formed a sports committee to manage the facility. The committee has drawn up an ad hoc time chart on how different age groups could share the facility. It was on trial in the few days that the facility was open, and would be frozen when it reopens, states the secretary of the community’s RWA, J. Madhan.
  • Jayashree Sundaresan, who is part of the sports committee, explains: “We have categorised the children into different age groups — and adults as well — and given a different time slot to each of them. Because, for example, the older boys, the ones who are 18-plus, wanted to play serious cricket. So, we told them: ‘In the early-morning hours, the turf is all yours.’ It had a transformative effect on these boys. Those who would stay up till one or two in the morning, spending the hours on social media, started showing up at 6 a.m., having gone to bed early.”
  • On creating simple provisions that support multiple sports, Jayashree says, “Right now, the plan is to have basketball hoops at both ends, and holes in the middle to also play volleyball and throwball. With portable goalposts, even football can be played.” As expected, cricket is still going to reign supreme.
  • Says Madhan, “Residents of neighbouring communities visit the facility as they have friends at RMT. And vice versa, as these communities also have their OSR parks.”

The secretary points out that the management committee zeroed in on a section of the Corporation park for establishing a play area of this kind.

“This section largely remained unused over the last 15 years. With its corroded metal fitness fixtures, it hardly made a welcome sight. Besides, the overgrowths raised fears of insect attacks,” he explains.

“One of the committee-members — Avinash Senthil — coordinated with Corporation authorities and attended to the formalities that go with a community taking up the development and maintenance of an open space reservation park,” says Madhan. “There were development guidelines to be met. First and foremost, the Corporation stipulated that the space’s essential character as a park should not be diluted. A part of it can be developed into a general play arena though. Two, this play arena should not be dedicated to any particular sport with permanent fixtures. As per the scheme then, we also paid a caution deposit with the Corporation in September 2020.”

A snapshot of the multi-sport facility at the gated community, when it was being used. Photo: Special Arrangement

A snapshot of the multi-sport facility at the gated community, when it was being used. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Says Avinash, “We initiated the park adoption process with Greater Chennai Corporation more than six months ago; and the final approval came in January.”

On a fast track
  • Greater Chennai Corporation launched Park Adoption Scheme for Urban Landscape Maintenance (PASUMAI) on 24 December, 2020, to lop off processes that made it difficult for entities — corporate houses, voluntary organisations, residents’ welfare associations and individuals among them — to take up the development and maintenance of parks, traffic islands and median gardens.
  • “The park adoption process is being carried out at Ripon Buildings, the headquarters of Greater Chennai Corporation,” said a Corporation official attached to the Parks Department of Greater Chennai Corporation
  • The Corporation official elaborated: “Before executing an MoU, we have to understand the entity who is coming forward to maintain the park. If they are fit enough to handle it — that is, whether they have the resource and know-how to handle it.” The official said that the entity should comply with standards, and failure on their part to maintain the adopted facility efficiently could make later restoration doubly arduous.
  • The Corporation official stated that to make it easy for entities to adopt parks, traffic islands and medians, through PASUMAI, for projects signed up after 24 December, 2020 (when PASUMAI was launched) the refundable caution deposit of ₹100 per sq.m for the maintenance of the park, and ₹50,000 for traffic island and median gardens, was waived.
  • “The Adoption process cannot be done online, because an MoU has to be executed. And before that, we have to ascertain the background of the entities coming forward to adopt a park. We have to make sure that the entites would not exploit it for commercial purpose,” the Corporation official added.
  • The Corporation official said that from the time the Model Code of Conduct for the Assembly elections came into effect, no agreements were being made.

(It may be noted the Corporation has further simplified the process of park adoption by entities — which include corporates, NGOs, resident welfare associations and even individuals — under what it calls Park Adoption Scheme for Urban Landscape Maintenance, which goes under the acronym PASUMAI. See box 2)

As remarked by the management-committee members, in its embryonic stage, the exercise was a million years removed from what it ultimately evolved into. When it was decided a multi-purpose turf would meet the expectations of one and sundry, the question of resources popped up. Turfs do not come cheap.

The facility at the gated community in MRC Nagar in Raja Annamalaipuram, when it was used being used. Photo: Special Arrangement

The facility at the gated community in MRC Nagar in Raja Annamalaipuram, when it was used being used. Photo: Special Arrangement  

“We have spent a huge amount to develop the facility, which was made possible by major contributions from some donors within the community. A part of the expenditure was met with an outlay from the community fund,” the secretary elaborates

Following the turf’s inauguration, when residents got to have a taste of it before the fresh surge shut it down, many parents reportedly registered their happiness over how their children deserted gadgets for the turf.

That probably more than justifies the effort that went into the exercise.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 4:49:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/on-a-shared-turf/article34325453.ece

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