Phub Dem | Paro

The public children park in the heart of Paro town has been closed for almost a year now and residents are wondering what is wrong with it.

Children play around the open-air gym next to the park.

Geeta, who usually visits the park, said that her children force her to take them to the park as there are no other recreational centres in the dzongkhag.

She said she inquired about the closure a month ago, but there was no apparent reason. “Some people say the park was undergoing maintenance, and others say it was because of the pandemic.”

While it was risky to take children out due to the pandemic, Geeta said that taking them out during weekends was essential to get them away from the screens. “Prolonged screen time is affecting my children.”

Besides, she said that it was risky for the children to play with gym equipment meant for adults.

Another resident, Bidha said that there was hardly any place for her five-year-old child to play in Paro. “Lack of recreational facilities, especially during weekends and for a growing child, is an issue,” she said, adding that it was difficult to engage her active son, especially during vacations.

Kinley, a father of three, said that outdoor playgrounds were safer than indoor spaces if the park was closed due to the pandemic.

In the meantime, some support the dzongkhag’s decision to close the park.

Pem said that the park often remained crowded, posing risks to children. “Unless there are safety protocols and proper monitoring, it should remain shut.”

Municipal engineer Ugyen Eden said that the dzongkhag was currently carrying out renovation and other beautifying work in and around the park.

She said that due to the pandemic, it has become challenging to manage the crowd as well. “We decided to improve the facilities in the park during the pandemic.”

She said that the municipal plans to improve the park and surrounding area in the new financial year.

Paro Dzongrab Kinley Gyeltshen said that the park was initially closed to carry out maintenance. “And it was challenging to manage overcrowding, especially during the pandemic.”

He said that only the park in the dzongkhag mostly remained crowded. “The dzongkhag decided to reopen, but the new variant is risky for children. It will remain shut until the situation improves.”

Considering the large settlement and limited capacity of the park, he said that limiting the number and managing it was a significant challenge. “I hope the parents understand as the decision favours the safety of children.”

He said that the park could accommodate only 15 children, but if it opens, more than 50 children rush in. ”As the park is located at the centre of the commercial hub, it poses a significant risk.”

Edited by Tshering Palden