With the city losing several privately-owned plots reserved as open spaces to encroachments, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will be working out a policy to make owners responsible for keeping encroachers out.
Several private parties have served purchase notices on the BMC in the last six years to buy back the plots.
Under Section 127 of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, the civic body had 10 years from 1994 to acquire plots marked as open spaces in the 1994 Development Plan.
The glitch in the process is that once the BMC agrees to purchase the plot, the process is then taken ahead by the special land acquisition officer (SLO) and it takes at least a year for the plot to be transferred in the BMC's name.
"In that one-year period, several encroachments spring up on the plot as the owner thinks the BMC will take responsibility, while the BMC does not have the manpower required to keep these spaces encroachment-free," a senior civic official said.
Group leaders raised the point at a meeting with municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar on Friday.
"We told the commissioner to get owners of the plot to control encroachments in this period when the BMC is yet to get the plot and the owner is no more the owner of the plot," said Manoj Kotak, chairman of the improvements' committee.
The city has 701 existing open spaces, while the plots proposed in the development plan are 1,586. Only 217 plots have been acquired in the last 20 years.
Corporators said in the new policy on open spaces the BMC was coming up with, there should be a point mentioned on how this loophole is to be tackled.
"Sometimes, the owner himself erects structures on the plot. The BMC has to pay a hefty sum for these plots and then finds that most of these plots are encroached upon," a civic official said.