On the face of it, the civic body has allocated a whopping Rs 256.66 crore for the city’s open spaces. But take away the funds set aside for the Byculla zoo revamp and the tree authority’s budget for awareness programmes and tree-trimming vans and what remains is just Rs 65.38 crore for maintenance of open spaces and preservation of trees.
This is Rs 23 crore less than last year’s budget allocation.
As opposed to 29 gardens that were developed or upgraded last year, this year the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation plans to develop only 13 plots.
When quizzed about why the civic body was cutting down funds for gardens and playgrounds in a city that’s got very few decent open spaces for its large and growing population, deputy municipal commissioner Suhas Karvande said: “The number of plots proposed to be developed into gardens depends on the plots the BMC buys from private entities through the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) policy. We have only 13 plots available this year.”
Activists are unhappy with the BMC’s budgetary allocation. “We want to know the criteria for deciding on the 13 plots proposed for development in the coming year,” said Neera Punj, coordinator of CitiSpace, a non-government organisation that is involved in issues related to open spaces in Mumbai.
Activists and the BMC also differ on the idea of ‘development’ of gardens. While Karvande talked about developing theme parks, activists opposed it. “Instead of spending huge amounts of money on beautifying open spaces, the BMC should spend on fencing and proper security of the available gardens so they are not encroached upon,” said Vidya Vaidya, CitiSpace coordinator.
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