H West ward has the dubious distinction of having the largest area of open space encroached upon. According to Citispace dossier Breathing Space, 52,423 square metres have been encroached upon in the ward that comprises realty hot spots like Bandra (West), Khar (West) and Santacruz (West).
Activist Aftab Siddiqui found that seven reserved open plots in the ward were encroached upon. One of the largest was Chennai Wadi in Khar (West).
It’s no coincidence that the encroached areas are valuable real estate, said locals. Activists said the encroachments themselves become prime property after a while. “The modus operandi is to encroach upon the plots and ensure the structures are regularised after a while,” said Siddiqui. A senior civic official admitted, on condition of anonymity, “After a point, there is tremendous pressure on us to regularise the encroachments. We have no choice but to give in.”
“Despite its reservation remaining that of an open space’s, Chennai Wadi, a playground, turned into haven for shops and residences.” A garments dealer on the plot said shops there were in demand. “Ever since Chennai Wadi got ‘developed’, shops here command a monthly rent of Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000,” he said.
The ward has six other plots that should have had gardens or playgrounds. Instead, there are encroachments.
Ironically, sometimes civic agencies are the culprit. There are examples of municipal toilets being built on a garden plot in H West ward.
With thousands of metres of land similarly encroached upon across the city, many like Siddiqui feel it’s a matter of time before more such plots are lost forever.