The Oval Maidan, the green space in Raj Bhavan, the Marine Drive Promenade, the green haven of the Mumbai Port Trust gardens and Azad Maidan — these are just some of the open spaces that would have been opened up to construction.
According to the freshly released ‘designation survey’ published by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), these spaces, in use as the city’s green lungs, would be reclassified as Recreation Grounds (RGs) or open spaces that can be built on.
But now civic chief Ajoy Mehta has promised to scrap a provision in the 1991 development control regulations (DCRs) that allows 15% construction on RGs, a day after HT pointed out how the BMC had re-designated at least 100 open spaces as RGs — giving a back-door entry to private entities taking over these plots.
In the survey, the BMC reclassified open spaces into RGs from two primary categories. One category includes plots that the scrapped 2034 DP had recommended to be RG, even though they were being used as playgrounds and parks.
The other, and more dangerous category, is the plots that were tagged as playgrounds and gardens even in the 2034 DP, but have been redesignated into RGs in the survey. For instance, in Cuffe Parade’s Badhwar Park area, a civic-owned garden, which the scrapped DP showed as a ‘playground/garden’, has been classified as an RG.
Similarly, the open space opposite the Gateway of India, which the survey found to be used as a garden and a promenade, has been shown as an RG again.
There are also examples of how, despite a physical survey, the BMC marked some spaces as RGs. For instance, in Colaba’s Geeta Nagar, civic officials inspected an open space and found the
plot to be used as a football ground.
Instead of marking it as a playground, the BMC has marked it as an RG. Defending the change in designation, BMC chief Ajoy Mehta said the civic body did so only because the 1991 DP had marked these plots as RGs.
But activists are not buying it. “At the time the 1991 DP was proposed and approved, the DCRs — which gave these RGs potential to be constructed upon — had not been finalised. Hence, it was okay for these spaces to be designated as RGs. But now that the civic body sees that many of these spaces are being used exclusively as gardens or maidans, why does it want to mark them erroneously as RGs?” said an activist, not wishing to be named.