Pointing out that Mumbai had just 20% of its requirement of open spaces and reaction grounds, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday said he had directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to revise its open spaces policy. Speaking in the Legislature, he said the state government would not accept the controversial ‘caretaker policy’ that the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance, which has a majority in the BMC, wanted to implement.
Under the caretaker policy, private players would be given the grounds and allowed to build clubs, restaurant and bars on 25% of the land, while maintaining the rest and allowing the general public to use it. The experience so far has been that while the private players build the clubs, they rarely allow the public to use the rest of the ground.
Citizens’ groups had strongly opposed the policy. The Hindustan Times has been running a campaign on the issue since 2007 following a public uproar. Following that, the policy was stayed in December 2007.
Replying to a debate on irregularities in the BMC, Chavan said the stay on the policy would continue till a revised policy was prepared. “Under the revised policy, the BMC should let residents or their associations maintain open spaces in their locality. If the associations are unwilling to do, only then should other institutions be given the spaces for maintenance. However, a transparent procedure must be adopted,” Chavan said.
He pointed out that the city did not have enough open spaces. “The island city has 0.2 hectares of open spaces for every 1,000 Mumbaiites, while the suburbs have 1.2 hectares for every 1,000 residents. This is a mere 20% of the open space required,” Chavan said.
The BMC has been told that there should be adequate provision for recreation grounds in the new Development Plan, a blueprint of development in the city, that is being prepared.
Chavan also sought detailed information on the open spaces already handed over by the BMC to various outfits under the caretaker policy. “We have come across several serious complaints,” he said.