Over the past decade, the city has been in a constant struggle to reclaim its open spaces. Two policies that could change things, one with the civic body and the other with the government, have been languishing for many years.
And despite a huge public outcry, the issue of open spaces has not been given the attention it deserves by the authorities.
The civic Open Spaces Policy, which proposes to give out playgrounds and recreational grounds to be adopted or partially developed as per their size, has been debated since 2007, and is still to move ahead. On the other hand, the state government is dragging its feet over the Gymkhana Policy, which lapsed 10 years back. As per this policy, 18 gymkhanas on prime land were leased out for just Rs 2.50 a square foot annually but one of the conditions was that they follow the rule of keeping the space adjoining each gymkhana open to the public.
This lapse not only means unavailability of public space to non-members but also a huge loss to the public exchequer.
The new civic Open Spaces Policy was framed in June 2011 and talks of more citizen involvement. Objections and suggestions were sought, but the hearing is pending. In case of the Gymkhana Policy, a new policy was framed in 2010, which revises lease rent rates and puts a monitoring mechanism in place.
However, it has not been approved. And to make things worse, from January 2005 to December 2010, not even one of the 34 open space plots slotted in the civic body’s Development Plan has come into the possession of the BMC.
Can a city with just 6.24 square kilometre of open space, which converts into just 0.2 hectares of open spaces per 1,000 people in the island city and 1.2 hectares in the suburbs, afford this kind of lackadaisical attitude?
“It is a sad state of affairs. If we look at the history of the civic corporation you will see that they have not created even a single big open space like the existing Oval and Azad maidans for the past few decades,” said Brinda Somaya, city-based architect.
But BMC municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar feels one need not be so negative about the issue. “We have framed a new policy, we have asked for objections and suggestions that have come in. Now we will have hearings, after which the policy will move to the corporation house and then the government for a go-ahead,” he said.