Spatial 26: 2 years on, civic body is yet to take over all open spaces in Mumbai

Close to two years after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) passed an interim policy on open spaces and promised to take possession of 216 grounds handed over to private entities, it has not been able to get 26 of them.

In 2016, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said all open spaces taken up by private entities will be reclaimed. Despite this, the BMC is yet to re-acquire all open spaces, some of which are maintained by political bigwigs.

According to an official document, which the Hindustan Times has a copy of, some of the open spaces that the BMC is yet to take back include Veer Savarkar Udyan in Borivli and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Kridangan in Kandivli and St Xavier’s Ground in Parel, maintained by the Mumbai District Football Association.

Apart from this, Amarsons Garden and Priyadarshani Park in the island city have also not been reclaimed.

Starved of space and densely populated, the city has few open spaces in proportion to the population.

Several private entities have earlier been criticised for discrimination and charging fees for entrance into public parks, which must ideally be free.

Following strong opposition by various citizen groups, the BMC in 2007 stayed a controversial policy, under which it had sought to hand over open spaces to a private organisation for maintenance. One of the clauses of the policy allowed adoptees to carry out construction on the plot, which faced strong opposition from citizen groups and activists. HT had run a series of stories pointing out the need to make open spaces available to citizens.

Vijay Singhal, additional municipal commissioner, said, “Notices have been issued to adoptees of these plots and we are in the process of reclaiming them. We will reclaim them soon.”

In November 2017, the BMC had come up with an interim policy to avoid misuse of open spaces by private players. The policy stated that private bodies can maintain open spaces as long as they provide non-discriminatory access, and free entry to citizens with no permissions to be issued for commercial or political activities on the plot. The interested parties wanting to maintain the open space will have apply to a ward-level committee, comprising civic officials, which will scrutinise their eligibility and allot spaces according to it. However, the BMC has not found takers for all reclaimed open spaces.

A senior civic official said, “There were some applications to adopt these plots under interim policies, however, none of the open spaces have been given to any applicant as of now.”

Nayana Kathpalia, of NGO NAGAR, said, “Its a disgrace because several adoptees of open spaces handed them over in good faith. This is unfair to them. If the BMC can take back those plots, why have they still not been able to take back the rest of them. “

First Published:
May 15, 2019 05:55 IST

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