There is growing concern in Ladakh about various issues especially in terms of mental health, unemployment, substance abuse and rapid social, political and economic changes. In this regard, sports and recreation are important activities that encourage healthy lifestyles for everyone, especially the youth.
The lack of sports infrastructure in Ladakh has been a major impediment that has prevented people from pursuing careers in sports. It has also undermined efforts to promote active healthy lifestyles. Thankfully, sports and recreation infrastructure in Ladakh have been improving over the last few decades though there is a lot of scope for improvement. For instance, people in Ladakh are still forced to use frozen water bodies to practice ice hockey and ice skating, play football on uneven ground, use home-made equipment for archery etc. At the same time, there have been several commendable efforts such as Ladakh School Olympics to promote sports and active lifestyles amongst the people of Ladakh, especially children and youth.
The Indoor Stadium near Polo ground in Leh is one of the oldest sports facilities and is meant for badminton, table tennis, basketball, archery and volleyball. I have observed that Indoor Stadium, Leh attracts people from every section of society including professionals, women, youth, and children who use this facility to pursue various sports and a healthy lifestyle. In this regard, it is a unique space in Leh town.
Unfortunately, Indoor Stadium, Leh has been used as a multipurpose hall for a range of activities over the years, including exhibitions, political meetings, election strong rooms, and as a COVID-19 sample collection centre. This undermines and disrupts its use for sport activities. Over the last few months, this facility is being used as a storage facility. Heavy equipment and boxes have been crammed into the facility. As a result, only one badminton court is currently useable and there is no space for anything else. This deprives people of the opportunity to pursue active lifestyles and the use of this facility for its intended purpose.
I tried to reach various officials to find out why this facility was being used as a storage facility, when it would be cleared, and why there is no clear policy for the management and maintenance of such precious infrastructure for its intended purpose. Unfortunately, they remained noncommittal in their responses.
There are frequent announcements about new projects including sport-related infrastructure since Ladakh became a Union Territory in 2019. Perhaps it would make more sense to focus on improving and maintaining existing facilities before creating new ones.
By Rigzin Wangmo Lachic
Rigzin Wangmo Lachic is an entrepreneur and badminton player based in Leh