Commonwealth Games threaten Siri Fort sports complex, members peeved

March 19th, 2009 - 1:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) Around 8,000 people use the Siri Fort Sports Complex here everyday for recreation and training but they are now being forced to stay away with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) deciding to close facilities for renovation ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games - a move that the members say is “unnecessary”.
“Despite letters and registered complaints to the DDA, our request for stopping the closure and renovation without considering the interest of members and residents has been ignored,” Deepak Dhawan, member Siri Fort Complex core committee, told IANS.

“We sent letters Tuesday to the lieutenant governor and the chief minister, even then they have not listened. Now they have begun to destroy the perfectly good pool, tearing down the changing rooms just to make it one feet longer to meet international Olympic standards,” Dhawan added.

The residents feel strongly that there is no need to shut the complex for two years.

“There could have been closure in a phased manner. We don’t say don’t renovate but pay heed to what residents and users have to say. There is no need for the additional courts or closing the pool in the peak summer time,” said an angry Bharatinder Singh, a doctor who is the over-55 national squash champion and teaches kids at the sports complex.

The DDA is making 12 new squash courts and revamping the existing six court within the same premises that have been deemed adequate by the Squash Racquets Federation Of India for training purposes for the games.

Three months back, four of the six courts were renovated - the added feature was “unnecessary” false ceilings.

There are other qualms as well. Like the need to renovate the badminton courts and fit it with a viewing gallery and to construct a covered concrete gymnasium in the middle of the courts.

“They are even going to use granite in open spaces. They refuse to give us details yet they’ll close the facilities for 18 months. Where will everybody go?” asked M.L. Lahoti, a senior Supreme Court lawyer and member of the Siri Fort’s core committee.

Lahoti, who had successfully put a stop to the felling of trees for ‘development’ on 25 acres of the complex earlier this year via a Supreme Court order, is upset that the DDA is not disclosing its intentions to members.

“We know this - they are using the public money to revamp the entire do. We estimate it to be around Rs.400-440 million,” Lahoti said.

So, while the DDA spends hundreds of millions on beautification and remodelling of facilities, the members are clueless about what they’ll do in the two-year period when the complex of which they are paid members remains closed.

“Thousands of kids and adults go to the centre daily to work out. This is not only good for social well being but also for keeping ailments like heart attacks, obesity, diabetes and arthritis at bay,” said Singh, who is also the convener of health and medical services for the 2010 games.

In his complaint to the DDA, Singh has written that the whole exercise of destroying and then rebuilding is a waste of funds as the courts can be upgraded to meet international standards at 20 percent of the cost.

Eventually, the mega revamp project would impact 8,500 people who use various facilities daily at the complex including the likes of national-level tennis, squash and badminton players, including youth tennis star Yuki Bhambhri and his sister Ankita Bhambhri for the crucial two years.

DDA officials, however, claimed that the facilities were being closed for the “yearly upgrade”.

“I don’t know what the complaint is but this is like the yearly upgrade that we do, for which some facilities are being closed,” DDA spokesperson Neem Dhar told IANS.

Members and residents of the complex are strong in their resolve to stop the renovation and have staged candle light vigils and protest marches over the past week.

“There needs to be a public forum and consultation with players. The next step is a public interest litigation with the Supreme Court,” Lahoti stressed.

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