It’s not what the draft development plan (DP) states about the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale (VJB) Udyan, but what it leaves unsaid is what may be the larger problem.
While the DP tweaks the reservation of the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan from a garden to a zoo and allots floor space index (FSI) to it, it allows the civic chief to decide the ancillary uses of the plot – without mentioning what the uses could be. What this means is the BMC chief can allow any sort of construction inside the 60-acre green lung, which he thinks is “ancillary” in nature. Such construction is prohibited in case of open spaces such as gardens, parks and playgrounds, but allowed only in case of a zoo.
Activists believe this is a big loophole in the rules, one which could allow the land to be exploited commercially. “It is a mischievous and deliberate move to obliterate the garden’s identity. There is no justification to change the designation and introduce features such as higher FSI and allowing ancillary uses,” said DM Sukhtankar, former chief secretary, adding the intention is to open up the land for other uses.
Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), said, “The DP is being deliberately ambiguous. The ambiguity will be exploited in the future. An ancillary use could be anything -- from a builtup zoo to a hotel.”
Hutokshi Rustomfram, trustee, Save Rani Bagh Botanical Garden Foundation, said, “In addition to it being mala fide, the changes are wrong because the garden came into existence before the zoo did. The zoo is just a part of the plot.”
Rustomfram and other members of the foundation had, in the past, protested against the BMC’s plans to revamp the zoo.