In six years, the civic body has been able to acquire only seven open spaces, even though the initial plan was to purchase 66 plots, reserved as open spaces or public spaces.
According to the development plan, of these 66 plots, 55 were cleared for purchase. The tardy progress in acquiring open spaces, thanks to a lengthy land acquisition procedure, makes the remaining plots vulnerable to encroachment.
The civic improvements committee on Monday decided to buy five plots from private owners at a cost of Rs10 crore.
These five plots are reserved as gardens, and four of these plots are in Ambivli in Andheri and one in Malad.
All these five plots are reserved for gardens and together occupy about 2,232 sq m.
The civic officials blame the delay in acquiring these plots on the lengthy land acquisition process. The land acquisition officer, who is appointed by the collector to complete official formalities, should ideally take only six-seven months but it takes not less than five-six years, leading to further encroachment on the plot.
Under section 127 of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, the civic body had 10 years to acquire plots marked as open spaces in the Development Plan. Failing to do so, the owner or any other person interested in the land can claim the land. And then the owner can serve a notice to the civic body, asking it to pay and take back the land.
In these 10 years, the civic body has spent more than Rs100 crore on acquiring these plots. However, the new DP came into force in 1994, and the civic body hasn’t acquired plots that were reserved for separate uses. Only 4.3% of the 44.67 lakh sqm meant for parks has been acquired in the last 10 years, followed by recreation grounds (RG), with only 16.5% of the 52.92 lakh sqm, which has been acquired.
“It takes years to acquire land and in this process, these plots get further encroached. Neither the owner nor the civic body cares to protect them,” said Bhalchandra Shirsat, chairman, civic improvements committee.
After an owner serves a purchase notice to the civic body, it should be accepted in a year’s time or else the reservation on the plot lapses. After the civic improvements committee and the civic general body approves the notice, it is sent to the collector and then a land acquisition officer is appointed to take the process further.