Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Save open spaces in Mumbai: Citizens’ groups -Published: Monday, Sep 13, 2010, 23:41 IST By Linah Baliga | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA[THE FUTURE GENERATIONS OF MUMBAI AND INDIA WILL WONDER WHY WE ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN]

Citizens’ groups from all over Mumbai are gathering to kick-start a campaign to save the city’s 800-odd public open spaces by demanding the repeal of the government’s caretaker policy.
On November 26, 2007, a similar campaign had culminated in an open letter to the chief minister by eminent citizens. It resulted in a stay on the policy. Citispace, an NGO fighting for the protection of Mumbai’s open spaces, convened a meeting on Monday to mobilise various citizen’s associations to come forward and protect open spaces — playgrounds, gardens and parks — in their respective wards.
“The BMC claims insufficient funds as the reason to allow commercial activity involving extensive construction and concretisation on public open spaces, when, in fact, the funds are more than enough,” said Neera Punj, convenor, Citispace. “We have made the calculations and it amounts to Rs103.4 crore for maintaining a total of 940 acres of open spaces in Mumbai. The budget allocation for the period 2010-11 can sufficiently cover this.
“We will empower citizens’ groups to treat open spaces as their personal property, so that they can lobby with the government to demand that they don’t want a caretaker policy or an adoption policy. They will write to the chief minister just like we have done for the A ward.”
Nayana Kathpalia, co-convenor, Citispace, said: “In the past, the BMC could not afford to maintain gardens and parks. It has now said that advance locality managements (ALMs) will get the first choice in adopting gardens. But it’s an uphill struggle for citizens’ groups to raise sponsorship for these gardens.
“In the past, we may have had agreed to adopt gardens, but it’s not our job. The entire policy of the BMC is wrong. We will put pressure through residents to impress upon the government that the policies must be repealed.

Jun 25, 2011, 05.35am IST

The Times of India
MUMBAI: The civic administration is reluctant to drop the caretaker policy for open spaces despite vociferous opposition from green activists. It plans to adopt an amended version that municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar finalized on Thursday night. The draft proposes to allow the caretaker to commercially exploit 25% of a plot above 50,000 sq feet, while making him pay for maintenance of the remaining 75%, physical possession of which the BMC plans to retain with itself.
The BMC claims this is because it can't afford to develop and maintain the city's 1,200 reserved open spaces. Aseem Gupta, additional municipal commissioner, said the BMC would have to incur a one-time expenditure of around Rs 1,000 crore just to develop the plots, which would take at least five to seven years.
The civic body will put up the final draft proposal on its website by June 28 so that citizens can send in their objections and suggestions within 30 days. Thereafter there will be a public hearing. The administration may modify the proposal if there are valid suggestions and then put it before the Improvements Committee for its approval. After the general body too gives its approval, it will be sent to the state government for the go-ahead .
However, Neera Punj, convenor , Citispace, a citizens' group that has been fighting to save the city's few open spaces said it was a crying shame that the BMC was unwilling to provide Mumbaikars their much-needed green space.
"All it takes is Rs 100-odd crore annually , which the BMC can easily afford, to maintain all green spaces in the city. The BMC is giving so much to builders, why does it need to touch the open spaces? The caretaker policy must be completely done away with. Not a single inch of open space should be allowed to be encroached upon ," she said. PK Das, architect and civic activist, said the whole exercise seemed to be aimed at destroying the quality of life in the city.

Linah Baliga, TNN Jul 29, 2011, 06.11am IST

MUMBAI: Citizens might lose access to a quarter of Dadar's Shivaji Park and Mahim's Dhote Udyan if the BMC's draft of its controversial open space caretaker policy gets government approval. The draft proposes to give 25% of these recreational grounds, and several others spread across the city, to private parties for the maintenance of the remaining area. The private parties can commercially exploit the 25% area by building structures like clubhouses and gymnasiums. The area will be walled, barring access to the average citizen.
The provision of the wall has further peeved citizens' groups, who are stridently opposed to the policy draft. "(This) is like gifting away people's precious land. It is deplorable and outrageous. The BMC is selling public land, and this is unacceptable," said Neera Punj, convenor of the NGO Citispace.
Co-convenor Nayana Kathpalia called the walling idea absurd. "It will make 25% of recreational grounds exclusive for the caretaker; the area will be lost forever," she said. "Where does the BMC get such ideas from?"
Ashok Ravat, member of the NGO Walker's Ecological Movement, said: "Carving out a portion of a recreational ground and walling it is detrimental to the concept of vacant , public spaces. A continuous open space gives more relief to stressed citizens.
"The draft is highly objectionable. Denying the public access to 25% of such land will not be allowed."
Defending the draft, a senior official from the BMC's estates department said: "It is essential to demarcate 25% of a ground given on caretaker basis so that the (private party) has its own boundary. Demarcation is necessary for members-only entry."
The reason the BMC has cited for drafting the caretaker policy is a need of funds to develop 1,200 reserved open spaces. The caretaker will be made to pay to avail of the facility, while physical possession of a ground (of area above 5,000 sq m) will continue to rest with the BMC.
The draft, apart from being ecologically unsound, is a gross misinterpretation of the Development Control Regulations, according to which only ancillary structures like gardener's hut, security guard's post and storerooms are allowed on a reservation of a recreational ground plot. Buildings like clubhouses and gymnasiums are designated as separate reservations, and are not ancillary structures.
But the BMC claims that it needs to seek private participation to develop public open spaces as per DCR reservations. Calling the claim misleading, Ravat of Citispace reiterated that the built-up area on 25% of recreational grounds would be permanently parcelled off to a private party. He said: "This is a lacuna created solely for commercial interests."

The Times of India


BMC to buy open spaces
  • India

  • Sep 25, 20
  • 11
Widely criticised for its policy on open spaces, BMC now plans to purchase open plots reserved many years ago for gardens. The civic body has prepared a new proposal for acquisition of 4,545 sq m of reserved space at a cost of Rs 22 crore.
The proposal is for purchasing six open spaces, five from Andheri and one plot from Malad. These open spaces measure up to about 4,545 sq m and will be purchased at a cost of over Rs 22 crore. A decision on these proposals is likely to be taken in the improvements committee on Wednesday.
Corporators across the party lines are in favour of purchasing the open spaces.
Congress corporator Vinod Shekhar said, " Though we support purchase of the open plots, the track record of the Shiv Sena and the BMC administration has been dismal in this respect.
He blamed ruling Shiv Sena - BJP combine for not developing many open spaces.
" Since 2005, the BMC has cleared over 50 purchase notices, but more than 90% plots have not been developed yet because of inefficient ruling party in civic body," alleged Shekhar. The current plots had been reserved way back in 1993, sources said.
Improvements Committee chief, BJPs Bhalchandra Shirsat said, " Most of the members are in support of purchasing open spaces and we will take a decision in the committee meeting." Currently, the city has only 0.03 acre of open space per 1,000 people or a mere 1.95 sq m per person, as against the international standard of 11 sq m. The Maharashtra Regional Town Planning ( MRTP) Act requires acquiring the plot reserved for public amenities as per the reservation envisaged in development plan ( DP) within 10 years of approval of citys town plan.
The owner can serve a notice to the corporation under section 126 of the MRTP and ask the civic body to purchase the plot.
If the corporation did not purchase it, the reservation lapses under section 127 of MRTP. Plans to purchase 4,545 sq m of reserved space for Rs 22 crore SIX open spaces, five in Andheri and one in Malad to be bought by the civic body Right step Currently, the city has only 0.03 acre of open space per 1,000 people or a mere 1.95 sq m per person, as against the international standard of 11 sq m
    The BMC claims this is because it can't afford to develop and maintain the city's 1,200 reserved open spaces
    Ravat of Citispace reiterated that the built-up area on 25% of recreational grounds would be permanently parcelled off to a private party. He said: "This is a lacuna created solely for commercial interests."