BMC revives plans for costly, themed gardens

  • Sanjana Bhalerao, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 09, 2016 01:05 IST

As the controversy over the development of open spaces and the policy governing it continues, the civic body in its 2016-17 budget has yet again revived its controversial ‘themed gardens’ projects.

This move comes even as the civic body has been claiming not to have enough funds to maintain all the open spaces in the city. Activists claimed theme gardens, which guzzle up funds, have been planned without considering the needs of locals. A majority have not been maintained properly.

The theme parks were first announced in the 2007-08 budget. In the past two years, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is grappling with the maintenance of gardens across the city, has announced rose and butterfly gardens to fortresses and memorial gardens — in total 39 new themed gardens — across the city.

The 8.15-acre Samyukta Maharashtra Sangharsha Smruti (memorial garden) at Dadar inaugurated by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Monday, announced in 2014, was completed after two years at the cost of Rs8 crore.

In 2014-15 budget alone, the BMC had announced the development of eight themed gardens for a cost of Rs93 crore. This financial year, too, the BMC has announced two new themed gardens in Kandivli and Ghatkopar. Last year, three such themed gardens were developed at the cost of Rs20 crore.

The Bird Park in Powai, which is the Shiv-Sena’s pet project first proposed in 2010, has received an allocation of Rs100 crore this year. This alone works out to one-third the cost of the entire budget for all gardens for 2016-17.

It will be interesting to see how the BMC maintains these gardens — its past record in maintaining themed gardens has been poor. A case in point: SK Patil Udyan at Marine Lines was in the making since 2007. It was thrown open to the public after seven years at the cost of Rs150 crore, in 2014. However, complaints are that it is poorly maintained.

“How many themed gardens are enough for the city? On the one hand they [the BMC] fail to even maintain traffic islands properly, but keep on announcing themed gardens running into crores. The BMC also needs to find out what citizens of the locality require and not just plan gardens, which may look good on paper,” said Rajkumar Sharma, ALM member from Chembur. Citizens have also demanded the BMC look into requests of the locals to develop their neighbourhood gardens. “The BMC can develop gardens/playgrounds and citizens will work as watchdogs,” said Nayana Kathpalia, trustee, NAGAR.

Citizens’ ideas for BMC budget pour in

From increasing budgetary allocations to maintaining open spaces and allocating funds to clean wells in the city, your ideas that can be incorporated in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) budget 2016-17 have been pouring in.

You have two more days to send in suggestions to the standing committee chairman.

Following HT’s campaign demanding greater say for citizens in the BMC budget, the committee said it will receive all the suggestions sent by citizens. The best ideas can be included in the budget through amendments.

While some want budgetary allocations for newer areas, some say the BMC needs to hear citizens’ suggestions on a regular basis. Prakash Padikkal, president of the Hillside Residents’ Welfare Association (HIRWA), said citizens can become the watchdogs of the corporation through this process.

“To ensure transparency in the system, the BMC can involve major NGOs in the city. Since many of these organisations know the ground reality, they can offer suggestions that can be implemented easily. We can be the eyes and ears of the corporation,” said Padikkal.

James John from AGNI, a city-based NGO, said the 50-member committee from Andheri (East) will be asking for budgetary provision to desilt wells in the city.

John said, “We are at the corporators’ mercy to remove silt from the wells as the BMC says there is no budgetary provision for the same. In severe drought conditions, the water from the wells can be used for cleaning, if not drinking.”

Citizens are also acutely looking at the Rs37,000 crore budget. Anandini Thakoor from the H/West Federation said the BMC should increase the budgetary allocation to maintain open spaces.

“They [BMC] have hardly allocated anything for open spaces. We are demanding the allocation be increased from Rs75 crore to Rs300 crore minimum to maintain open spaces,” Thakoor said. The federation held a meeting last week to look at the requirements of Bandra before sending in their suggestions to the BMC.

The Clean Heritage Colaba Resident’s Association (CHCRA) wants car-free zones in heritage areas and multi-storey parking areas “With the number of cars increasing by the day, BMC must allocate more funds for building parking lots,” said Subhash Motwani, a member of CHCRA. (With inputs from Tanushree Venkatraman)

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