“We are more concerned about having parking spaces than playgrounds. As society we are pushing our children towards physical inactivity.”
Talking about how sports promote healthy behaviour, one of the panelists at the 2014 Next Step Conference held earlier this year, showed us the brutal side of development. In our pursuit of a “better” life we have compromised on our “healthy” life. Rapid development comes with its own consequences, in this case as the panelist pointed out, it is a growing absence of playgrounds for children.
India, a vibrant economy today, has prospered most in the last couple of decades. This prosperity has largely benefited a certain section of the society living in the metropolis and tier-II cities and is yet to reach the most destitute. However, the benefits bring along their own problems. Better roads, in New Delhi, for example, did not translate into better public transportation, rather, resulted into more privately owned vehicles on the road.
Economic growth and real estate boom is complementary to each. As a result, the cities keep expanding, both horizontally and vertically, while “utilising” every square inch of available space. This caused a twofold problem. First, the playgrounds and/or parks have grown narrower over the years. Second, playgrounds/parks have been converted into parking lots by the inhabitants surrounding it.
Complex problems of today require innovative solutions. In this case, it came in the form of Raahgiri Day, which is inspired from the Spanish ‘cyclovia/ciclovia’. Every Sunday a network of streets in the city is cordoned off for non-motorised transport users so that people could use these roads/streets to bike, skate, run, walk, play, practice yoga, exercise, dance and practice other recreational activities. The initiative which is run by a network of NGOs and citizen groups in association with government agencies was first started in November 2013.
According to recent WHO estimates, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) account for nearly 60% of total deaths in India. Increasing risk of NCDs is attributed to physical inactivity. With about US$ 20 per capita general government expenditure on health (GGHE), it is imperative that the government promotes physically active lifestyle habits. It would also save expenditure made towards treatment afterwards.
Situations are not better in other Asian nations, including China. The aspiration of the “Asian Century” is fuelled by the huge youth population Asia possesses. But it is only going to become the “Un-healthy Century” if we do not leave enough playgrounds for the children to play in.
This article was published by The International Platform on Sports & Development on 24th Sept.