The civic body has a dismal record, both in saving and maintaining open spaces in the city, but the manner in which it spends money in doing so is all set to change soon.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has now proposed to make the gardens department's functioning independent of other entities to ensure that funds earmarked for open spaces are utilised efficiently and properly.
BMC will set-up a special gardens infrastructure cell, which will be the sole authority responsible for planning and development of new gardens and maintenance of existing ones.
Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta said, "We plan to make the department independent and give it more freedom by ensuring that it has its own technical wing to handle all issues related to gardens."
Currently, the functions of the gardens department are highly dependent on other departments of the civic body, which lead to delays in implementing green policies. This delay also means that almost every year, around Rs8-10 crore, meant for developing new gardens is unutilized and lapses at the end of the financial year.
A senior civic official said, "Thanks to systemic delays, a substantial part of the gardens department funds meant to develop new gardens in the city lapses every year because different departments could never arrive on consensus and clear files on time. This year Rs10 crore lays unutilized and will consequently lapse."
This new cell will work on gardens, from preparing designs and concepts to floating tenders and supervising its execution. "Currently, different departments like the City Engineer's Planning & Design department as well as the Municipal Architects plan and design our gardens. The gardens department gets involved, only when horticultural aspects are concerned," said Chandrashekhar Rokde, deputy municipal commissioner (gardens).
This process takes more than six months to complete. "The formation of the new cell will help us reduce this delay by half the time and process the proposal faster," said Rokde.
Controversies over beautification projects, such as the ongoing one at Five Gardens beautification plan, have caught our attention. "Architects design gardens to make it look pretty, and but they do not understand the needs that our department has from that garden, in terms of the green cover needed. Hence, its important that experts from the gardens department are involved to plan better open spaces," said a civic official.
Along with open spaces, this cell will also look at the construction and beautification of swimming pools and open-air theatres. "This new cell will give the issue of developing open spaces more importance and ensure much more scientific planning of the city's gardens," said Gupta.