The civic body’s newly framed open spaces policy, which is awaiting a nod from the civic improvements committee, is skewed towards private bodies, say activists, who point out that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation should bear the expenses of developing and maintaining open spaces.
The proposed caretaker scheme in the policy invites bids from organisations for plots that are larger than 15,000 sq metres, which activists argue, is a big risk as the plot may become inaccessible to the public after they are developed, as has happened earlier.
Expecting citizens to bear the financial burden of maintaining large open spaces is unfair and impractical. “There is a lot of strain on citizens to raise funds once they take up the development and maintenance of a plot. The development and maintenance cost can be easily borne by the BMC,” said Nayana Kathpalia, convenor, CitiSpace. “It can do this by not splurging on developing fancy theme parks.”
Many residents feel that the proposed policy is the BMC’s way of shirking off responsibility. “It is primarily the responsibility of the civic body to develop and maintain open spaces. These adoption and caretaker schemes mean that the BMC wants to pass on the buck to private organisations,” said DM Sukhtankar, former municipal commissioner. “Both schemes should be abandoned. Funds are not a constraint for the BMC.”
Suhas Karwande, deputy municipal commissioner (gardens), said: “The BMC has developed many gardens in the past. Once the stay is vacated over the policy and the directives are finalised, they will be followed,” he said.
Kathpalia believes that to bring about a positive change in the way open spaces are maintained, citizens and the civic body should work together. “It is important that citizens approach ward officials in partnership, instead of people blaming the BMC for its inefficiency.”