It’s a big victory for the city’s fight to protect open spaces. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), following a report in the Hindustan Times, has decided to scrap the much-exploited rule that allows construction on open spaces marked as recreation grounds (RG).
Civic chief Ajoy Mehta promised to scrap a provision in the 1991 development control regulations that allows 15% construction on RGs, a day after HT pointed out how the BMC had re-designated at least a hundred open spaces as RGs — giving a back-door entry to private entities taking over these plots to construct gymkhanas and exclusive clubs under the new open spaces policy.
HT has been consistently campaigning against the new policy, along with citizen groups.
HT’s report also pointed out that on the BMC’s new ‘designation survey’ list were iconic spots such as Fort’s Horniman Circle, Azad Maidan, Cross Maidan and Oval Maidan, all of which were tagged RGs even though they have been used as playgrounds and gardens for decades.
Mehta agreed with the concerns raised in HT’s report. “The concerns raised in this report are valid. There are serious concerns that open spaces can be misused with the provision of allowing construction on recreation grounds,” Mehta told HT, adding, “We are now planning to amend the DCR and scrap the provision that allows 15% of the plot area to be constructed upon.”
Mehta said the DCR, which is being revised, will not have this provision. “We will put them in the public domain for feedback from citizens.”
In the past, the city has lost open spaces to private clubs such as Jogeshwari’s Matoshree Club, Bandra’s MIG Club, Borivli’s Kamala Vihar Sports Complex and the Wellington Club in Santacruz — all built on RGs, exploiting the rule and taking advantage of the caretaker policy that allowed for the handover of such plots to private players.
The new open spaces policy can similarly cost Mumbai more of its open spaces. Once BMC amends the DCR and does away with the 15 % construction on RG plots clause, no construction will be allowed here.
The other effect is that even if the controversial open spaces policy allows it, no public space can be diverted by private players to be made into exclusive clubs.
Explaining the rationale behind the move to designate open spaces as RGs, Mehta said the civic body used the 1991 development plan (DP) as the reference point for its designation survey.
“Hence, we had taken a stand that we will retain designations that had been used for these open spaces in the ’91 DP. We decided not to change them. As a result, many gardens and playgrounds have also been categorised as RGs.”