A suggestion made by the civic improvements committee on Thursday may either find a solution to the city’s numerous undeveloped open spaces reserved under the Mumbai Development Plan (DP) or allow developers to deprive the city of its green cover even further.
The improvements committee, in its first meeting after the new civic body was elected, passed a suggestion to the DP department to split plots reserved for playgrounds or recreation grounds where pre-1995 legal slums exist and use it for implementing slum rehabilitation schemes.
Shiv Sena corporator Raju Pednekar, who placed the suggestion in the committee meeting, said: “Many of Mumbai’s open spaces that are reserved under DP house pre-1995 legal slums. Most of the slums have got a stay order from court against their demolition. Hence neither development work of a playground nor slum rehabilitation schemes can begin,” said Pednekar.
The tussle between the growing need for open spaces and the need to redevelop slums can be traced back to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a non-government organisation, CitiSpace, in the Bombay high court in 2002.
The court judgment issued in the PIL stayed all SRA schemes carried out on open spaces that are reserved for gardens, playgrounds, parks and recreational grounds.
Dismissing the suggestion of the committee, Nayana Kathpalia, co-convener of CitiSpace, said: “As per the high court stay order, the open spaces earmarked under the DP remain sacrosanct. Slum-dwellers should be given the status of project-affected persons and be rehabilitated accordingly. Well maintained open spaces are a right of the slum-dwellers too”.
Milind Sawant, deputy municipal commissioner, said: “It may be difficult for the suggestion to get a go-ahead by the DP department because of the court order. But there are many reserved plots that are not being maintained or are lying undeveloped due to slums. Splitting them into reservation for ‘housing the dishoused’ and ‘playground’ seems to be the only solution.”
Ram Barot, improvements committee chairman, said: “The committee leaves it to the DP department to take a decision.”