Despite the civic body aiming for a green city, will Mumbai be at a loss for green open spaces?
In a bid to boost the ratio, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has proposed to include ‘large urban greens’ as part of open spaces in Mumbai.
The draft development plan (DP) has proposed that spaces like Raj Bhavan, Doongerwadi (the Tower of Silence), JJ College, the Haffkine Institute, Navy Nagar, Indian Institute of Technology campus, among others, be opened up to the public as open spaces.
The list also includes educational complexes like VJTI and UDCT, along with Andheri’s Bhavan’s college.
The fact is that these areas have little or no access for the public at present. There are doubts whether the organisations handling these spaces will even allow access to people.
Experts claim inclusion of such areas may, on paper, prop up the availability of open spaces in the city without it making any actual difference to the people’s lives.
In addition, the civic body has also proposed to lower the amount of open spaces available for each person in the city, from the 1991 DP. In the earlier blueprint, the civic body had promised to try and achieve a per capita open space of 5 sqm in the suburbs and 2 sqm in the island city. However, this has now been brought down to a uniform 2 sqm per capita across the city.
At present, the open space available in the city is just 1 sqm per person.
The BMC has been trying to include beaches and promenades into the definition of open spaces, which will take the figure to 1.09 sqm per capita of open space, but it has been facing stiff resistance from activists.
Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute, said such lowering of standards was not acceptable. “On one hand, the BMC is increasing the floor space index (FSI) and as a result, the burden on the existing crumbling infrastructure. On the other, it is reducing the open space standards, which will throttle the city further,” he said.
Urban planner Aravind Unni from YUVA said some of the decisions may not be practically possible.
“The plan has proposed to allocate vacant land across to the city for use as open spaces. But such an allocation is easier said than done,” he said.