Ahead of the impending revision of the city’s development blueprint, citizens’ groups have started an exercise to expand the number of open spaces and include these in the new development plan.
On Saturday, various citizens’ groups met to chalk out strategies and present them to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation before it finalises the city’s revised development plan.
Citizens and activists will focus on expansion of the city’s meager open spaces and look at including areas falling under the no development zones such as lakes, riverbanks, forest areas and even parts of wetlands, saltpans and mangroves.
Rishi Aggarwal of the Mangroves Society of India (Mumbai chapter) said: “The city has wonderful opportunities on the banks of the rivers Mithi, Dahisar and Oshiwara among others, as well as the various lakes in the city. All these places need to be recognized and developed as open spaces to ensure that they are accessible to the public.”
But, he added, that making environmentally fragile areas more accessible has downsides. “We need to be careful while dealing with environmentally critical lands such as wetlands or saltpans. However, there is no harm in recognising natural forests such as Aarey milk colony or parts of Borivali national park as open spaces.”
PK Das, a consultant architect, who was a part of the meeting, feels there is an urgent need to look at not just protecting the existing open spaces, but also looking at other options as possibilities for expansion of the city’s open spaces. “In a natural manner, they are a part of our open spaces systems and hence, should be made more accessible to the public,” Das said.
The citizens’ groups have divided themselves into action groups to look at various roadmaps to achieve this dream.
For instance, one of the action groups will audit the existing open spaces in a ward-wise manner and bring out a detailed report on their current use.
“Rather than a small group of people sitting and deciding the state of open spaces, we should have wider public consultations. This exercise of expansion of open spaces can be effectively done only when the majority decides for the city and not a small minority”, said Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute.
An official from the civic development plan department said it would be too early to consider this demand. “We will make a land use plan of the city first and then look at where we need to focus on, depending on the data obtained. We could consider these suggestions at a later stage.”