John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Without play sets, slum children frolic in garbage dumps and toxic rivers.
Not every child is fortunate enough to grow up near a KaBOOM! playground. In the slums of places like Jakarta, kids wanting to play might dive into a sluggish river of floating food containers, animal carcasses and dirty water. In Mumbai, they have the lovely option of using a homemade swing located in a burning garbage dump, as you can see in the above photo from Reuters' Vivek Prakash.
In this survey of "polluted playgrounds" put together by Reuters, the tykes don't seem to mind frolicking in their horrid surroundings. But you get the feeling it's not going to be good for their health later on. These playlands of filth are nurseries for a host of diseases, from cholera to malaria to tuberculosis. And it's anybody's guess as to what pollutants are lurking in the toxic-looking rivers. Will today's chemical-foam party be tomorrow's cancer?
Children play in foam generated from a polluted river at the Marunda flood canal in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Beawiharta Beawiharta/Reuters)
Children sitting on a makeshift raft play in a river full of rubbish in a slum area of Jakarta. (Enny Nuraheni/Reuters)
A boy plays with a tire near garbage being set on fire by residents of a slum in Karachi, Pakistan. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)
A child living in a slum plays on a swing under a bridge on the bank of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu, Nepal, one of the world's poorest countries. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)
A child swims in the polluted waters of Cilincing beach in Jakarta. (Beawiharta Beawiharta/Reuters)
A Roma boy wears a helmet in the Roma settlement in Sarajevo's suburb of Butmir. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)