Recreational gardens - the much-needed open spaces essential in any international city design to ensure greenery - have fallen prey to the development in the city.
In three years, as many as eight plots earmarked for public gardens in Development Plan (DP) have been de-reserved and handed over to the builders for construction of residential or commercial purposes.
Documents available with HT from urban development department under Right to Information (RTI) shows that not only recreational gardens, but the city has also been denied of at least three hospitals, 22 public utilities like water transport terminals, telephone exchanges, bus depots, zoo, art gallery, fire brigade, government staff quarters and a school.
All these have been de-reserved and either has already gone to the private builders or is in the process. Three No Development Zones (NDZs) have also been de-listed and made ready to develop into two residential complexes and one cemetery.
A de-listing, after being suggested, is verified by a BMC committee. While the state government took a policy decision of not interfering with de-reserving gardens, between July 2003 and July 2006 eight recreational gardens were de-reserved for CNG filling stations, residential zones, cinema halls and even waste dumping ground.
BMC officials claimed that many of the 'requests' come from urban development department. "They sent us proposals and they have a right to clear it as well. We are in no position to refute the claim," said a BMC official.
Many of the garden plots de-reserved, have been earmarked for residential complexes, indicating influence of the builders in the decision.
According to BMC commissioner Johny Joseph, recreational gardens are not supposed to be altered. "We will have to inquire what had happened here. Generally all proposals are scrutinized closely," he said. According to him, de-reservation of some of these plots came from the urban development department.
Echoing Joseph, principal secretary urban development, Ramanand Tiwari said, "Recreational gardens are not to be touched. If it is otherwise, we need to make inquiries to find out what exactly had happened."
Town planners insist that the open spaces were vital for the city and the development plan but Mumbai was no longer a planned model city, as it was thought of.
"When the development plan was made, it was on the basis of cities in the West. Now, may be the authorities are realising that it was too much of a hope for an Indian city with such huge levels of migration.
Though such open spaces were vital, but nobody tried to develop them in all these years and they were lying just vacant. If they had done so, there would have been little scope for de-reservation," said urban expert Harshad Bhatia.
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