News Published on Kerala The New Indian Express (25-11-2023)

Pathanamthitta town, the capital city of Pathanamthitta district, faces a growing concern.

The town visibly lacks adequate recreational spaces for its residents,” says a study conducted by Kochi based Centre for Public Policy Research. The study was conducted by Roshin K Mathew, urban fellow, CPPR. CPPR is an independent, not for profit public policy think-tank.

The study says “here, recreational spaces also include sports stadiums, auditoriums, children’s parks, gyms, gardens, and museums. This is a significant issue because the town lacks state-of-the-art public infrastructure while serving as the district’s administrative capital. Currently, the area used for recreation is three times smaller than the desired requirement, or 3.8%, when ideally it should be 12-14% (as per Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) guidelines) of the total town area. This inadequacy has several implications, be they physical, social, or psychological.”

According to Roshin in his study, “for instance, diabetes and hypertension are two of the most prevalent diseases among Pathanamthitta’s residents and will become more widespread as the population ages. A sedentary lifestyle and isolation among the elderly are mostly to blame. One way to tackle these diseases is through regular physical activities and social interactions. Creating proactive and engaging open spaces can relieve residents to a great extent and, in the long run, reduce their health expenditures. As the town has a high and growing ageing population, the adoption of open gyms and decent pedestrian pathways can go a long way in improving their fitness levels. It is also ideal that they be placed at a walkable distance, preferably 15 minutes away, within high-density residential areas and equipped with geriatric-friendly designs such as ramps, signage, non-slip floors, benches, and so on,.”

“It is interesting to note that Pathanamthitta municipality has a decreasing population growth rate of -1.24% from 2001 to 2011, with close to 20% of its residents being 60 years of age or older. This aging population needs special attention and requires spaces that cater to their needs. The newly inaugurated open gym called ‘malayorarani,’ situated at the district stadium, is a move in the right direction, and more may be planned, especially at wards with an increased geriatric presence. Similarly, spaces such as open-air theatres, auditoriums, and exhibitions are instrumental in nurturing socio-cultural engagements and cultivating the talents of artists, performers, and entertainers. However, within the town, few platforms exist for them to collaborate, engage, and inspire. A dedicated space for them in the district that gives birth to some of the greatest artistic talents in the state would be only natural,” says the study.

“Surrounded by hills, the town is situated at a lower elevation, making it an easy target for floods, as was witnessed during the 2018 floods. In this regard, open recreational spaces within densely populated regions play the additional role of natural sponges, slowing down such catastrophes. The town has several vacant plots for creating such spaces. Also, the

Chuttipara hill, located aptly at the city center, may be developed with cable cars, stalls and leisure activities, taking the nearby Jatayu rock as inspiration. The hill offers excellent vantage points for overlooking the town and enjoying its steady breeze, “ says th study.

“In order to raise funds for such recreational projects, the municipality can borrow from the bond market through tax-free municipal bonds or even green bonds. This could also be done through pooled financing with other urban local bodies (ULBs) that have similar plans while availing technical support from the state. Community investment schemes that target the NRI and NORKA populations for funding infrastructure development may also be envisaged. Pilgrim taxes and optimising user charges from EV charging, waste management, and parking are other options,” the study suggests.

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