Parks in Kolkata will open their gates to visitors from Monday but the number of hours they remain open will not be uniform, said senior officials of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA).
The KMC will keep its 700 parks open in the morning and in the afternoon — from 6am to 9am and from 4pm to 6pm. The KMDA will open Rabindra Sarobar and Subhas Sarobar only for three hours in the morning — 6am to 9am.
A chorus of voices demanding the reopening of parks was growing in the last few days. Those demanding the opening argued that there was no logic in keeping parks closed while malls and gyms were open.
“It is bizarre to have parks closed when people can visit malls, restaurants and gyms. But the decision to open parks only for three hours in the morning does not make sense either. It is winter and how many people will be able to make it to the park early in the morning? For the elderly and homemakers, late afternoon is more convenient,” said Rabindra Sarobar regular Mudar Patherya, who had emailed the chief minister on Friday to open parks.
“I will have to write another petition so all parks are open for sometime in the afternoon, too,” Patherya said on Saturday.
Before the authorities agreed to open parks, there was widespread confusion as some parks in the city were allowing visitors while others were not.
Vivekanda Park, Minto Park and Deshapriya Park were allowing visitors for quite some time, said visitors. Others said these parks did not close even after the surge in Covid cases from end-December.
These three parks are under the KMC. But all parks of the civic body were not open, said a senior KMC official. “We have 700 parks under us and all of them will remain open from Monday,” said a senior official.
In contrast, Rabindra Sarobar and Subhas Sarobar, two of Kolkata’s largest parks under the KMDA, were closed since the beginning of January. “We will open the two parks from Monday for three hours in the morning,” said a KMDA official.
Though there was no official notice from the KMC or the KMDA about the opening, officials of both had conveyed the message to activists who were demanding the opening of parks.
A KMDA official said some citizens had approached the KolkataHigh Court to direct the state government to open parks. The KMC and the KMDA were served notices to make them parties to the petition. Authorities of both decided to open the parks soon after this, said the official.
The state government had announced on January 2 that “all entertainment parks, zoos, tourist places shall remain closed”. Though it was not explained what entertainment parks meant, many parks were closed citing the surge in Covid cases.
A public health expert welcomed the decision. “When fairs are being held, trains and buses are running, there is no need to keep parks closed,” said Abhijit Chowdhury, a public health expert and a member of the state government’s Covid task force.