Mayor Shubha Raul, who is unhappy with the state government’s stay on handing over the city’s open spaces to private parties, has come up with her own idea for developing open spaces.
She wants the state government to take over plots along the seafront unused by fisherfolk and develop them as gardens and green zones.
In a letter dashed off to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan recently, Raul has said the government should acquire vacant land near the sea or near creeks which fishermen, the original inhabitants of the city, use for keeping their fishing boats, nets and other equipment.
“The state should acquire that land and other similar properties in the city which come under the No Development Zone. These can be then developed as gardens and green zones,” Raul has said. The state should compensate and rehabilitate the fisherfolk whose land is acquired, she has added.
Raul had recently announced that she would approach court to vacate the stay on handing over open spaces to private parties. Her statement met with opposition from citizens’ groups and environmentalists.
According to her, land belonging to Kolis is being captured by the land mafia or given away for meagre sums. Many Kolis are not into fishing any more and, as a result, marshy land has been levelled and given away, she has said.
Citing the example of a 200-acre plot near Ganpat Patil Nagar, Dahisar, Raul has said it now has illegal shanties and houses nearly 20,000 people on a 3-km stretch on Dahisar Link Road. She had planned to demolish the illegal
structures, she has claimed, but the local corporator stalled demolition.
Citizens’ groups are unhappy with Raul’s idea. “Instead of acquiring land owned by fisherfolk, the mayor should ask the BMC to develop open spaces owned by private parties,” said Neera Punj of Citispace.
The Koli Mahasangh, a group representing fishermen, has called Raul’s proposal ridiculous and promised to protest.
“We’ll not allow the government to take even an inch of our land. Our entire business will be over,” said Prakash Bobdi, vice-president of the group.