The South Asian Times

24 October 2018 01:58 AM

After child's death - 700 compost pits in Delhi parks remain life-threatening

By Nikhil M Babu

New Delhi, July 2: More than a week after an 11-year-old boy died in a six-feet (1.83 metres) deep compost pit in a park here, many of the 700 compost pits in parks across the city still remain unprotected, becoming death traps for children.

On June 20 evening, Abdul Khalid drowned after falling into a rainwater-filled compost pit in District Park Avantika of northwest Delhi.

After Khalid's death, IANS found seven such compost pits -- around six-feet deep -- without any protection in six parks in different parts of the city.

There are about 700 compost pits in parks in the city under the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), according to the Delhi government.

Most of the compost pits IANS found were around six-feet deep and three-metres long and two-metres wide.

At a park in A-6 of Vasant Vihar, seven-year-old Aryan was playing cricket with three of his friends and behind them was a compost pit -- without a sign board, fencing or covering -- like the one in which 11-year-old Khalid fell and died last week on Tuesday.

Khalid too had gone to play in a park.

"It (compost pit) has been here for more than a month," Aryan told the IANS correspondent holding his cricket bat across his chest.

As the pit was about three-fourths full, another pit about six-feet deep had been dug in the same park and it too lacked any protection.

"This is wrong, why is there no protection? I saw this in the news that a kid died in a pit two days back. If it can happen somewhere else, it can happen here also," local resident Usha, 74, told IANS. "My six-year-old grandson also comes to play in this park."

At five other parks IANS visited -- Japanese Park in Rohini, Smritivan in Mayur Vihar Phase III, Kondli District Park in east Delhi, Vasant Vihar E Block park and District Park Avantika -- the situation was similar.

All parks had one compost pit each about six-feet deep, which was left open without any fencing.

Digging of compost pits in parks was taken up on a large scale after a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order banning burning of leaves in NCR in 2015.

Once filled, the compost pit is then covered with soil and on decomposition it is dug up and used as manure.

Khalid's father, Mustaq, 35, told IANS in their Mongolpuri home: "I have filed a police complaint against the park so that what happened to my son won't happen to any other child. I'll fight the case as far as I can."

DDA Vice Chairman Udai Pratap Singh told IANS that an official has been suspended after Khalid's death and they're taking precautionary measures.

"After the incident (Khalid's death) we were asked to give details of water bodies in each park," a senior DDA official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

But he confirmed that nothing has been done specifically about compost pits.

In Kondli District Park in east Delhi, there was one compost pit about six-feet deep without any barricade, sign board or covering.

The supervisor of the park said it takes around three to six months for a pit to get filled and it is left open during that period.

"The contractor arranges for a JCB and it takes around half an hour to dig a pit," a caretaker at Smritivan said about the compost pit in the park.

Asked why compost pits in parks have no fencing, the DDA Vice Chairman said that he'll have "to check about it".

He added that normally fencing is done around pits or a mound of soil placed around the rim.

"Parks are managed by officers and we have already told them that they're personally responsible for safety," Singh said. "We've given instructions and our officers are very watchful."

Asked about compost pits under south MCD, Engineering Chief Umesh Sachdeva told IANS that "None of the compost pits are uncovered as on date" and added that "we don't have any attended pits".

But contrary to his claim, of the three parks under SDMC which IANS visited, two had compost pits without any fencing or sign boards, and one park had a pit deeper than six feet, but dug for some other purpose and left open.

A day after Khalid died in District Park Avantika, authorities fenced the pit and also put up a board.

"I took his (Khalid) body out from the pit and there was no barricade around the pit at that time," Khalid's uncle Mohammad Musafar, 23, told IANS.

Update: 02 July, 2017