Mumbai civic body, drafting policy to save open public spaces


By Accommodation Times Bureau

Mumbai: BMC- for the first time- has decided to set a separate policy on how gardens and playgrounds should be developed in the next 20 years under the Development Plan. The chief reason behind it is to ensure politicians-builders do not pinch the rules to snaffle public open spaces in the name of maintaining them.

In the new DP,the BMC has put forth proposal of creating playgrounds and gardens on around 4,000 acres of land (equivalent to 200 Oval Maidans), besides old-age homes, working women’s hostel and affordable housing. So authorities need to have detailed guidelines on the size, use and maintenance of these places. Besides, the policy will spell out the specific purpose for which an open space is reserved in the DP.

This plan has to come up as a result of what the politician did in the DP 1991-2012. Politicians took advantage of a clause in the Development Plan, which had allowed construction on a part of open space. Politicians came up with a caretaker policy in that period, and public open spaces were allotted to various trusts and institutions (many of them connected with politicians) for maintenance. And soon many of the spaces were commercially exploited.

A DP planner said, “We have put in various reservations after studying the needs and uses of the open spaces.” A planner said, “A playground will remain a playground, and the policy will ensure that even jogging track or any other concrete structure is not constructed as it reduces the playing area.” BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta said, “It’s to ensure that all public spaces, whether it is public welfare centre or open space, remain with the public body.”

The BMC on August 5 submitted the draft DP-34 to the state government, which will take final call on it. Chief engineer DP V R More and retired IAS Officer Ramnath Jha, a supervising authority of the revised draft DP-34, are preparing the policy details. Once the government clears the DP, the BMC will place the policy before the general body.

Former central information commissioner and activist Shailesh Gandhi said, “I will be happy if BMC retains all open spaces and gets private bodies to audit their maintenance.”


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