Since the beginning of this week, parks are being opened twice a day — once from 6am to 9am and again from 3pm to 6pm. There are 750 KMC parks across 144 wards in the city.
“We are all for reopening parks from 6am to 9pm like they used to be before March 2020. We are planning to extend the evening timing by an hour with immediate effect. We will then extend it further in the morning and open it in the afternoon once we get the nod from the state government,” a senior parks department official said.
Debashis Kumar, MMiC overseeing the KMC parks department, said his department was not in favour of placing curbs on citizens’ right to enter public parks at any time of the day. “We are keeping tabs on the Covid situation and are in touch with the government before we can revert to pre-Covid timings,” Kumar said.
However, Supreme Court advocate Shruti Agarwal questioned why the parks had been shut in the first place when the notification did not specify it. “It was shocking that while the Covid restriction notification issued by the state government on January 2, 2022 and signed by the chief secretary stated that entertainment parks are to be shut, KMC and KMDA went ahead and closed public parks,” she said. Doctors and scientists have also repeatedly pointed out that the risk of infection spread is lowest in an open-air space.
Calling for immediate reopening of parks as per pre-Covid schedule, green advocacy group PUBLIC founder Bonani Kakkar said: “Public parks are not a discretionary service being rendered by KMC. They are an essential service, as much as water and street lights. Using Covid as a pretext to deny citizens this essential service is tantamount to failure to performing a statutory duty.”
Lawyer Ankit Agarwal, who used to exercise between 7pm and 9pm prior to Covid, said it was essential to return to the earlier regimen for those unable to wake up early as well as those who are busy whole day. “People with professional commitments in the morning need to have flexibility. Ditto with old people who can get much needed fresh air, greenery, and the afternoon sun in these gloomy and wintry days,” he said.