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Fewer open spaces in civic body's survey

The city's open spaces and its environmental features are shrinking, if the figures of the existing land use (ELU) survey are anything to go by.

mumbai Updated: Sep 12, 2012 00:37 IST
Kunal Purohit

The city's open spaces and its environmental features are shrinking, if the figures of the existing land use (ELU) survey are anything to go by.

The latest survey, conducted by a civic body-appointed consortium called the Groupe SCE India, has indicated that mangroves and mudflats in Mumbai have decreased rapidly.

The ELU states the mangroves in the city are spread over 3,838 hectares, whereas a Union environment ministry's 2009 Maharashtra Wetlands Atlas puts the figure at 5,716 hectares.

Does this mean that 1,878 hectares were lost in less than three years?

The mudflats in the city have reduced to 366 hectares in the ELU, from a massive 1,812 hectares in the Atlas, a loss of 1,446 hectares, or about 80% of the mudflats. Mudflats are coastal wetlands that form when mud is deposited by tides or rivers.

The ELU has raised questions about the city's open spaces as well. While a 2007 Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) study pegs the available open spaces in Mumbai at 2,318 hectares, the ELU survey fixes it at 1,229 hectares. The ELU also does not make it clear how much of this is accessible to the public.

This could be a mistake or part of a larger strategy, said an urban planner on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

"By not recognising environmental features and open spaces, this is an attempt to de-reserve huge tracts of land and open them up for development. As de-reserving the land would invite criticism, this study nips such criticism in the bud by not identifying them at all," the planner said.

The discrepancies between earlier studies on environmental features and ELU figures were identified by a city-based body, Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), when it studied the ELU and compared it to the 1991 development plan (DP) as well as satellite imagery of these plots.

Incidentally, the civic body's request for proposals (RFP), a document inviting consultants to draw up the city's new DP, had asked the consultants to explore the possibility of opening up of the city's no-development zones (NDZ) for development, which was met with severe opposition.

Yashwant Kanhere, a retired town planner, said such development was alarming.

"The shrinking of open spaces is major cause of concern. In the present economical condition, there have even been instances of encroachment of non-development zones in the city," said Kanhere.

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