It is time to think out of the box and to speed up systems if the city does not want to choke up soon due to the lack of open spaces, say urban planners and citizens active in the movement for reclaiming Mumbai’s last remaining open spaces.
“We have seen how slow the policies have moved. And it is clear that just making provisions in the development plan (DP) of the city has not meant much. We should stop looking at open spaces in isolation. Instead, make it a part of the development process by making sure that new spaces are not only created but become someone’s responsibility,” said Pankaj Joshi, urban planner and executive director Urban Development Research Institute (UDRI), Mumbai.
Joshi explains how this can be done. “We can link open spaces to development projects where builders have to compulsorily create a park of a certain size in a certain area. Also, schools and hospitals can be linked to open spaces so that they are used and maintained.”
Nayana Kathpalia, member of Citispace, who supports modern planning, thinks that policies need to be well-thought of and go through a series of public consultations instead of being pushed down people’s throats. She says: “Look at the new open spaces policy, there is nothing new in it. We need a fresh policy with a new view.”
The 2011 open spaces policy talks of giving first preference to local citizen groups to adopt or maintain the plots under the caretaker policy. Playgrounds and recreational grounds with an area less than 5,000 sq meters will be given on adoption basis, and no construction will be allowed on these plots. The bigger plots will be given on caretaker basis, on which only 25 per cent of the area can undergo construction.
Anandini Thakoor, chairman of the H-West citizens trust, who was in the forefront of the battle with the government to make the city’s gymkhanas more accountable says that although the new policy does include their demands, nothing has happened yet. “What is the use if the file is sitting in some cabin in the government,” she says.
The new Gymkhana Policy, framed by revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat in 2010, talks of annual leases based on the size of the plot instead of fixed blanket lease amount for all. Non-members will have access to open spaces attached to gymkhanas and the governing body will have a government representative to keep tabs on activities such as commercial sub-letting of grounds.