The Maharashtra government wants to clear the long-pending open spaces policy for Mumbai, to ensure norms which will increase the open space accessible to each citizen, in the city’s new development plan (DP).
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday said he would soon hold a meeting to decide on the pending policy on maintaining recreation grounds and playgrounds in Mumbai. He added the norm for open spaces in Mumbai will be increased to two sq m per person, from the current ratio of one sq m per person.
He was responding to questions raised by legislators from Mumbai in the state Assembly on the issue. Yogesh Sagar, BJP legislator from Charkop, demanded the government take a decision on the open spaces policy, which has been pending for more than seven years.
Fadnavis’ assurance to the Assembly is in line with what the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is proposing in the new development plan (DP) for the city. The 1991 DP, which is effective in the city now, promised two sq m of open space per person in the island city and five sq m in the suburbs. However, the average actual existing open space accessible to each citizen now is one sq m. While the national standard for the same is 10 sq m per person, the BMC has proposed to make it to two sq m across the city in the new DP. Fadnavis’ assurance in the Assembly is considered as the state government’s nod to the same.
Fadnavis also said the government would prepare a new policy on rehabilitation of slums that have come up on plots reserved for playgrounds or recreation grounds, in order to free the spaces of encroachments and make more open spaces available in the city.
The BMC’s policy on maintaining open spaces has been put on hold for more than seven years, after citizen groups raised strong objections. Under this policy, the BMC had proposed a ‘caretaker policy’ for maintenance of recreation grounds and playgrounds, by handing them over to private organisations and NGOs and even allowing them to construct structures on a part of the grounds. The citizens’ groups had opposed this policy, saying the organisations would grab the open spaces and restrict access of the citizens to them. Several politicians and gymkhanas had already done this, they had pointed out.
They argued the open spaces, owned by the people, should be accessible to them across the city. HT had published a series of reports pointing out how the city would lose precious open space if the controversial caretaker policy was adopted. Following the uproar, the state had stayed the controversial policy. Some time ago, the civic body had proposed the adoption policy, which does not allow any construction on open spaces. However, politicians have opposed the same.
On Tuesday, citizens’ groups welcomed Fadnavis’ announcement. “We welcome the step taken by the chief minister. We would request him to consider the recommendations of the state-appointed committee to prepare a uniform policy on maintaining all non-buildable reservations in Mumbai,” said Naina Kathpalia, trustee of NAGAR, a citizens’ group.
Controversy over open spaces in Mumbai:
*Citizen groups have been strongly opposing BMC’s plans to hand over playgrounds and recreation grounds to private organisations and NGOs, through the controversial caretaker policy. Under the caretaker system, the organisations can build on part of the grounds. The groups allege that the organisations would restrict access of citizens, especially children, to the open spaces owned by the public
*BMC’s controversial policy was stayed by the state government, after the citizen groups raised strong objections
*A year ago, the BMC prepared a revised open spaces policy, under which recreation and playgrounds were sought to be given on adoption basis, without allowing any construction. However, corporators from the ruling Sena-BJP civic body have been opposing the same
*In 2012, the state government formed a committee under the chairmanship of the civic chief to form a uniform policy to maintain all non-buildable reservations (open spaces as well as water bodies). The committee submitted its report three months ago, but the government has not taken any action on the same.
Open spaces norm in the city:
* Average actual existing open space accessible to citizens: 1 square meter per person (smpp)
* Open space, including clubs/gymkhana, swimming pools, promenades and beaches: 1.24 smpp
* What the 1991 DP had promised:
* Island city: 2 smpp
* suburbs: 5 smpp
What the BMC has proposed now:
The DP recommends slashing the standards for the city’s open spaces to 2 smpp, while national standards recommend at least 10 smpp.