The new open spaces policy, which will dictate how the city’s open spaces are preserved and maintained, has received the nod of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief Subodh Kumar.
A copy of the new policy, which will be made public on Tuesday, is in the possession of Hindustan Times.
It encourages citizen bodies to enter joint ventures with corporates, especially public sector units (PSUs), in order to have the financial capability to develop and maintain open spaces.
Hindustan Times had, on September 14, 2010, first reported about the new policy, which aims to give citizens a greater say in the civic body’s management of open spaces.
In a bid to encourage their participation, the new policy will give 10% concession to citizen groups that participate in the bidding process. This means that groups that make a bid which is 10% lesser than the highest bid will be allotted the plot.
Kumar said: “I have given my nod to the city’s new open spaces policy. We will now be putting it up before the public for suggestions and objections.”
Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta said, “The idea was to give citizens a greater say in the whole process. Also, to ensure that the city’s open spaces aren’t lost to private parties, which restrict public entry.”
However, the new policy rules out any strict action against those who had usurped plots meant for the public. Rather than taking the land back, the new policy recommends financial penalties and part return of the plot.
A senior official said, “We will be taking back 50% of the land from the private party , which will then be open to the public. On the remaining land, we will charge a heavy premium per square metre, which will be based on 25% of the plot’s ready reckoner rates.”
Another civic official, on condition of anonymity, said, “Such financial penalties make little difference to the people from private trusts. The BMC should just take back the entire plot.”
In its earlier system, eight of the city’s plots had been usurped by private trusts run by political leaders. These trusts then built gymkhanas and clubs and restricted public entry.
The most prominent examples were Shiv Sena legislator Ravindra Waikar’s Matoshree and Supremo Sports club in Jogeshwari and Kamla Vihar Sports club at Kandivli, developed by Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Gopal Shetty.
Citispace, an NGO fighting for the city’s open spaces, criticised the new policy. Nayana Kathpalia, co-convener, Citispace said, “We are against the commercialisation of 25% of the open spaces. The BMC can afford to take care of all the open spaces in the city. Ultimately, political trusts will take over all these plots.”