Although citizen bodies have lambasted the new open spaces policy drafted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), if all goes well, its implementation would mean more open spaces for our city, starved of its green lungs.
That’s because the new policy has included provisions to see to it that the city can get back its lost open spaces too.
The Hindustan Times is in possession of a copy of the new open spaces policy.
The city has a serious deficit of open spaces and such a move might bridge the deficit in some measure. Currently, the city has only 0.03 acres of open spaces per 1,000 persons whereas London, for instance, has 12 acres.
This new policy has identified ways which led to loss of most of the city’s open spaces. Along with identifying these categories, the policy also talks about various provisions and methods through which the plots can now be recovered.
These categories are plots leased out to various parties, plots wherein the civic body’s Vacant Land Tenancies (VLTs) exist, open spaces plots reserved in various town planning (TP) schemes where construction has been carried out, open space plots given out to private trusts on adoption or caretaker basis, reserved open space plots that have been encroached upon, and undeveloped plots in the civic body’s custody.
The new policy has devised ways in each case, by which it hopes to get the plots available for the citizens to use.
A senior civic official, involved with the drafting of the policy, said, “The ultimate aim of this policy was to increase the city’s open spaces. In a space-starved city such as Mumbai, the only way to do it is to ensure that the city gets all its designated open spaces back.”
For instance, the civic body has decided to shift all its tenants currently in VLTs on designated open spaces, and classify them as Project Affected Persons (PAPs). VLTs are tenants settled by the civic body on its own plots to ensure that they are not encroached upon and are made use of.
“VLTs are settled with the condition that they will move out when the civic body needs the land. Hence, by shifting them into a PAP accommodation, we will be able to free the land,” said another civic official.
In a similar way, the civic body hopes to clear constructions that have taken place on plots reserved in the TP schemes for open spaces by offering PAP accommodations to tenants.
The policy has also looked at ways of clearing open spaces plots encroached upon illegally. The civic body had started a policy of developing the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) schemes on such plots, but was vehemently opposed by citizens and later stayed by the Bombay high court, since it meant that only 33% of the land would remain with the citizens, while the rest would be used for construction of the rehabilitation and sale buildings.
The Hindustan Times had earlier reported that the civic body was contemplating rehabilitating the eligible persons on the plot, in an SRA scheme near the plot, and thus clearing the designated plot. Officials have said that a further decision on it would be taken after the stay is vacated by the HC.
Raju Bhise, director, Yuva, is not impressed with the idea.
“Considering residents as PAPs and shifting them out is just one of the solutions. There are issues attached with the housing of the urban poor, such as their livelihood that will be affected. You are bundling out the poor from their homes only so that you can hand over the plot to the market forces, on a caretaker basis.”