MUMBAI: In a contentious provision, the city’s revised draft development plan (DP) 2034 has proposed 16% of the total land area available to be marked as open spaces. The city, according to the draft DP, is spread over 476.24 sq km (47,624 hectares), of which 78.34 sq km (7,834 hectares) has been proposed to be maintained as public open spaces. Activists, however, said the figure 16% is inflated and the actual open spaces available to citizens are just around 7%.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has recently reserved around 1,892.22 hectares of open spaces, which are proposed to be added to the existing 1,633.67 hectares. These are supposed to be easily accessible to citizens in the form of recreation grounds, playgrounds, parks and gardens.
However, it will be difficult for the civic body to acquire the proposed land for the purpose of creating open spaces as most of it is encroached.
Also, of the 7,834 hectares of open spaces proposed for the city, around 4,308.11 hectares will actually be only on paper. The reason being the draft DP seeks to add space under swimming pools, clubs and gymkhanas, buffers around nullahs (open drains), creeks, rivers and even areas around water pipelines as public open spaces — much to the dismay of experts and activists.
Further, parts of Aarey Milk Colony and Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) as well as layout recreation grounds in private properties (housing or commercial complexes), too, have been considered as public open spaces. BMC has also proposed to count large spaces such as Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus at Powai and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) campuses as green spaces, in an effort to inflate the open spaces numbers.
Experts have slammed the move, saying the provisions are misleading and will not mean more open spaces in the city. “The citizens will get to access only the public open spaces that are existing, and are new open space reservations, whereas inclusion of everything else is just a way of inflating the figures to meet the standards on papers,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI).
While the available open spaces in the city is 1.24 square metre a person, the revised DP has proposed a standard of 4 square metre a person. However, as per the civic body’s calculations, per person open space ratio will go up to 6.13 sq metre after including various other special areas such as SGNP, Aarey Colony, buffers and others. BMC’s officer on special duty for revision of DP 2034, Ramanath Jha, had earlier said that every open space that is accessible to public will be included as public open spaces.
While it is not being able to stop destruction of mangroves in many areas, the civic body has introduced an idea of a walking track in the mangroves and that, too, will be considered an open space. The revised draft DP has also proposed to develop ‘Green Reclamation’ by reclaiming natural pockets of the sea. Reclamation of 300 acres near Cuffe Parade to be developed as Central Park is also one of the proposals.
Nayana Kathpalia, trustee of citizen group NAGAR, said, “16% open spaces is too low a percentage to meet the open space standards of the city’s population and the civic body should distinguish between accessible open spaces and inaccessible open spaces.
Reserving buffers of nullahs and creeks as open spaces is a good move, but it should be actually made available in proper form and not just be used for increasing numbers to meet the standards, thus further fooling the citizens.”
Justifying the step of including such areas under public open spaces, civic officials said that though these places are not accessible to all citizens, they are available for enjoyment for a sizeable number of people.