Saving Mumbai’s open spaces from encroachment and construction will form a significant part of the new coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) rules that the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) is likely to announce soon.
According to the draft resolution, the new rules will call for declaring all open spaces in CRZ-II in the city development plan to be treated as ‘no-development zones’ (NDZ). CRZ-II applies to the coastal stretches within municipal limits and urban areas that are substantially developed up to the seashore with necessary infrastructure.
This means, a substantial part of the 940 acres of unencumbered land reserved for recreation grounds, playgrounds, parks or gardens will be kept off construction, except for some public amenities.
This will leave no room for the civic body’s caretaker policy, which permits private parties to build exclusive clubs and restaurants on open spaces.
The Hindustan Times from November 2007 has been highlighting the issue of the lack of open spaces. Mumbai only has 0.03 acres of open spaces for every 1,000 people. The National Building Code norm calls for open spaces of 4 acres per 1,000 persons.
“It is great for the MoEF to think about open spaces. This will mean that these areas cannot be touched for any development,” said Neera Punj, convener of Citispace, a group that works to protect open spaces.
Pankaj Joshi, conservation architect and executive director of the Urban Design Research Institute was concerned about how the civic body will acquire open spaces. “Many of the demarcated open spaces need to be acquired to come into public domain for which the civic body will need huge money. Will they acquire these properties?” Joshi asked.
During the recently concluded Assembly session at Nagpur, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said a new policy should be drawn to allow citizens to maintain open spaces. New CRZ rules will give an impetus to this.