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Where have all the open spaces gone?

Karthik Subramanian

Little scope for outdoor games in growing city Over-crowded Corporation or school grounds are the only options

CHENNAI: : There are 90 playgrounds in the city. At least, that's what the Chennai Corporation records would have us believe.

But tell your school-going cousin this, and you'll get a blank stare and the inevitable question: "Where are they?"

There are simply not enough open spaces for team games like cricket or football. The only options for the Chennai's cricket crazed crowds are the over-crowded Chennai Corporation playgrounds or school grounds available on rent.

Most schools have however reserved their grounds for summer camps.

S. Gopikrishnan, who lived in Royapettah until a year ago, recalls the huge ground in MRC Nagar where he played tennis ball cricket along with his schoolmates till 2000. The ground has given way to a residential complex now. "Concrete structures have gobbled up space in the Posts and Telegraph quarters at Anna Nagar where cricket flourished a decade ago.

A visit to one of the city's last remaining tennis ball cricket haunts, the Somasundaram Grounds in T. Nagar, illustrates the situation. At least five matches are on at any point of time. An absent-minded player might well be fielding for a different team.

According to T. Dhanasekar, who plays for the Madras University cricket team, grassroots cricket is the victim. Dhanasekar practises nets at the ground adjoining the Nungambakkam Zonal Office.

Though the Corporation had taken up large-scale revamp of its parks, it paid little attention to playgrounds. The Kannapar Thidal in Pulianthope and the Cresent Ground in Shenoy Nagar are examples of neglect.

The Kannapar Thidal ground was used as parking space for heavy vehicles over a year ago. Though the Corporation promised that it would develop facilities there, nothing much has happened. Thankfully however attention had been turned on the Kannigapuram Ground, another major playfield in the Pulianthope zone. R. Govindarajan, general secretary, Exnora International (T. Nagar), suggests that the Corporation look at open space reservation lands in the CMDA approved layouts and revive them. "Most of the OSRs should have been maintained as parks or playgrounds have been encroached," he added.

But there is good news. Corporation officials say that soon the city's playgrounds will also get a facelift as part of government's "Chennai Forever" initiative.

Also, the State Sports Development Authority is seriously looking into developing open spaces in the city and its suburbs as community-level playgrounds.

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