The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in a controversial move, plans to lower the amount of open space per person that it mandatorily has to provide the city, citing scarcity of land.
The civic body’s report also proposes ‘diverse uses’ for the city’s open spaces, which activists suspect could be just another way of privatising the few remaining green spaces.
From promising and subsequently failing to provide even 2 square metres of the mandatory open space it has to provide per person in the land-starved island city, and 6 square metres per person in the suburbs in the 1991 development plan, the BMC has now proposed that it be made a uniform 2 square metres of open space per person.
Hindustan Times had, on Monday, reported how t he civic body had actually been able to provide only a dismal 1 square metre of open space per person against the space promised.
This is against Central government guidelines which mandate that there be at least 10-12 square metres per capita of open space, while the guidelines governing Delhi pegged the figure at more than 4 square metres of open space per person.
According to the report, the civic body should now focus on maintaining the existing spaces better and adding natural green spaces as well as spaces along the city’s rivers to increase per capita share.
What is likely to draw protests, however, is the proposed use of open spaces for ‘diverse uses.’ The report doesn’t specify what kind of uses these will be, raising suspicion that this could open the doors for privatisation of the open spaces.
The BMC had brought in the controversial caretaker policy, which encouraged private bodies to build on open spaces and develop private clubs and gymkhanas. The policy had to be withdrawn in 2007, following public outcry.
“We understand that it is difficult to create more spaces and hence, we want a realistic standard. But, cutting it down to 2 square metres is absurd,” said Nayana Kathpalia, co-convenor of Citispace, a group fighting for open spaces.
Civic officials of the development plan department said these were just proposals, which would be deliberated and debated upon.