Posted on October 16, 2011

Children playing at roundabouts is not an uncommon sight in Doha as even the most casual observer of the city’s scenes can discover.

As the sun dips in the western sky, the small spaces in the centre of the roundabouts start humming with human activity— children playing and adults jogging or exercising. This is the scene one invariably comes across in the evening at most roundabouts and green strips here and there in residential-cum-commercial localities which lack a fullfledged park or playground for children. 

At the Al Mansoura roundabout, children are often seen dashing off to the road to fetch their footballs or cricket balls at the risk of being knocked down by a passing vehicle. And guardians are compelled to let their kids play there despite the risk involved under children’s pressure or just to save themselves an acute sense of guilt over being unable to provide children sufficient space to play.

Sunitha Krishnan, an Al Mansoura housewife who goes to the roundabout with her two sons aged 12 and 9 almost every day remarked, “Come evening, and my children refuse to stay within the confines of their residence. So, perforce, I have to take them to the roundabout as it is the nearest place where they can play. It is not feasible to take them to the Corniche every day.” When asked if she did not find it risky, she remarked, “Of course it is risky. That’s why I make it a point to stay there until their play is over. I take ample precaution while letting my son fetch the ball from the street and make sure that there is no vehicle coming from any side.”

According to the residents of these localities, they felt like criminals when they thought of their children who were deprived of something as basic as a proper playground for regular physical activity. Sabiha Khan residing in Al Sadd area said, “Growing children need certain amount of physical activity to keep fit. But the absence of playgrounds or public parks in our locality forces our children indoors, which also make them prone to lifestyle diseases such as obesity, which is the mother of most diseases in Qatar.” Muhammad Ashfaq of Bin Omran area said, “My 13- year-old son is always glued to the laptop, which I find irritating.

But, when I scold him for this, he often pleads innocence arguing that he has no place to go to for playing with his friends. I am overwhelmed by a sense of guilt. I hold myself responsible for ruining his childhood, more so because as children we had plenty of space to play.” Christina, a resident of Al Hilal area said that though she was told that there were quite a few parks in her locality, the parks were hardly visible. “I have been residing in Al Hilal for the past two years but I do not remember having seen any park worth its name so far.”

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While welcoming the facilities of playground and parks in the new housing colonies being built by agencies like Barwa and Qatari Diar, the residents pointed out that old residential-cum- commercial colonies needed a bit of restructuring so as to accommodate playgrounds and parks. The residents said that parks were a must for everyone including children and adults in every locality as it was not possible for a working person to visit the few select parks such as Aspire Park, Al Bidda Park and Corniche every day.

It is worth mentioning that the lone woman member of the Central Municipal Council Sheikha al Jufairi in an exclusive interview with Qatar Tribune lamented dearth of parks and green zones in the Old Airport District and expressed her commitment to build one. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning has allocated QR 320 million for public parks for the fiscal year 2011-2012 whereas some 38 new projects for the establishment of public parks and playgrounds.

source: Qatar Tribune

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