AFTER CLOSING parks and other outdoor spaces due to rising Covid cases, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is now facing public pressure to reopen them to allow people to exercise outside. However, the city administration has forwarded the matter to the next Covid-19 review meeting which will be chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Friday.

As instructed by the state government, the PMC decided to close swimming pools, gymnasiums, gardens and parks to the public, citing rising Covid infections in the city. However, he has been criticized for not allowing the public to visit these places to exercise and stay fit. Thus, this allowed gymnasiums to operate at 50% capacity.

“I have had lengthy discussions with the Mayor of Pune on the reopening of outdoor spaces. We are confident that a decision to reopen parks and outdoor spaces will be taken at the next review meeting on Friday which will be chaired by the Guardian Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar,” said Siddharth Shirole, BJP legislator from Shivajinagar constituency.

The PMC had closed more than 100 parks to the public while the forest department also closed its urban forest premises to the public. The city’s parks and urban forests are places where people exercise in the morning and evening. Many residents visit the parks, which also have open gymnasiums. The closure of parks has forced citizens to use the streets and paths for their daily exercise.

“I am a regular at the Sambhaji garden for physical exercise. Together with my wife, I visit the garden in the morning and evening where we mainly do walking and yoga. However, now the garden has been closed due to of the Covid surge and so we have to walk the streets and paths for our daily physical exercise and keep fit,” said Padmakar Chavan, a resident of Shivajinagar.

In many places, residents face problems walking the streets and sidewalks due to traffic and vehicles parking on the sidewalks. The PMC is also criticized for its failure to repair roads that have been dug up to lay water and drainage pipes in various parts of the city. “Dug out roads and paths add to our woes. The alleys and sidewalks are too narrow and they have been dug for civic works leaving no space for pedestrians. It becomes risky to walk on such roads,” said Kalpana Joshi of Sadashiv Peth.

BJP corporator and chairman of the standing committee, Hemant Rasane, said the PMC had been tasked with speeding up road repairs.

Suresh Kamble from Hingne Khurd said it didn’t make sense to allow gyms to operate and keep open spaces closed to the public. “Authorities should keep outdoor spaces open as well as gymnasiums. They are for people’s fitness,” he said.

In the past, the PMC had reopened parks and gardens to the public for physical exercise on the condition that they do not sit in the premises and use it strictly for physical exercise only. There were also strict conditions to follow Covid standards, but the public violated them, forcing the PMC to close the parks.