While citizens' groups have welcomed the stand taken by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on open spaces, they demanded that the new policy give them a say in who gets to maintain the grounds.
Under the caretaker policy, over 40 recreation grounds - each larger than 15,000 sq mt, roughly the size of four Oval Maidans - were to be handed over to private developers for construction of elite clubs. These clubs would not allow the public to use the ground, which led to a public outcry and the government staying the policy in December 2007.
On Tuesday, Chavan said in the Legislature that citizens' groups would get first preference when it came to maintaining open spaces in their area.
"Chavan's statement could save the 800 open spaces remaining in Mumbai," said Neera Punj, convener of Citispace, a group working on urban space issues.
Punj said Chavan should spell out how the policy would ensure transparency. "Once a draft policy is ready, it should be put in the public domain. We should be allowed to voice our objections and suggestions," she said.
Groups like the Federation of the H-West Ward Citizens Trust have surveyed open spaces in their areas. "We have surveyed open spaces in the ward, which spans from Bandra to Santacruz, and are trying to identify who can maintain them. We want the policy to be citizen-based," said Anandini Thakoor, chairman of the trust. She said there should be a committee to oversee the allotment of such spaces.
The previous chief minister, Ashok Chavan, had also pushed for a relook of the policy, but it had a caretaker clause by which the developer was allowed to construct facilities on 25 percent of the ground after beautifying the rest.
"But, since the caretaker policy, has been thrown out of the window, this policy is redundant," Punj said.