While there are serious flaws in the civic body's existing land use (ELU) maps relating to incorrect marking of open space plots in the city, there is another cause for concern — many private gymkhanas and clubs have also been marked as open spaces.
While most have large tracts of green spaces enclosed within them, they aren’t accessible to the public. Experts have sounded caution over this move, calling it an attempt by the civic body to increase the city’s open spaces, on paper.
The decision is a serious blow to campaigners who have been fighting against the takeover of public open spaces by private clubs and gymkhanas under the now-repealed controversial caretaker policy, which encouraged this private takeover.
These gymkhanas and clubs also have made considerable construction on the land they occupy, and hence, many feel marking the entire land as an open space is mischief, more than negligence.
These high-profile gymkhanas include Bombay Gymkhana, Princess Victoria Mary Gymkhana in Marine Lines, Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana in Santacruz, YMCA Gymkhana in Andheri (West), The Club, Millennium Club and Juhu Gymkhana Club in Juhu, as well as the Andheri Sports Club.
Architect Nitin Killawala, an activist who scrutinised the ELU and found these discrepancies in Juhu and Andheri, said that such marking is unacceptable. “The civic body has tried to mislead people and represent the state of affairs in a way which is favourable to them. As a result of such misrepresentation, the area under open spaces might be a lot on paper, but in reality the local residents are getting access to hardly a fraction of that space.”
Shyama Kulkarni, a Bandra resident and a trustee of charitable trust AGNI, said, “While we were scrutinising the ELU in Bandra, we came across a plot which was shown as an open space, but when we went there we found a 17-storey building. It’s frightening to see that the ELU can be so erroneous.”Moreover, many plots which are being used for other purposes are also being tagged as open spaces. For instance, a shopping line on Ridge road in Malabar Hill has been marked as an open space, and in Bandra (West), a slum cluster on St John Baptist road is shown as one.