Residents living in the vicinity of the Cooperage ground in south Mumbai are up in arms against the Western India Football Association (WIFA), which is laying an artificial turf at the Cooperage ground. Locals fear that the artificial surface will reduce the open space meant for public use and also hamper seepage of rainwater.
Residents of Shalaka building, opposite the Cooperage Stadium, have written to authorities including the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the collectorate and the state government asking for intervention. They insist that the WIFA should be maintaining the ground with natural grass, instead of asphalting it, which could reduce the amount of open space and also violate the sanctity of the heritage precinct.
Former municipal commissioner Sharad Kale, who lives close to the stadium, in his letter to the municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar, said that the civic body should check if the association has obtained the requisite permissions.
“Asphalting of the ground reserved for recreational purpose is a step in the wrong direction and clearly not in the interest of the city,” Kale said.
Kale also said that this move might lead to water-logging during monsoon as the rainwater will not be able to seep into the ground through the layer of asphalt.
“It is unthinkable that the authorities are allowing a large part of the recreational ground to be asphalted. After asphalting and construction of the stadium and other amenities in the ground, there will be very little space left for public to use,” said Neera Punj of Citispace, an NGO fighting to save open spaces in Mumbai.
Local residents also cite the recent high court judgment that allows public access to the open areas of the stadium on no-match days.
Souter Vaz, general secretary of WIFA said that permissions were in place to lay astroturf (artificial turf) on the ground. He added that even before the field was not astroturfed, locals were not allowed to walk on the play area.
“How does it reduce the open space? It’s a non- issue. All permissions are in place,” said Vaz.
The 140-year-old ground is spread over seven acres of land, of which around 30,000 square yards were allotted to the Western India Football Association (WIFA) in 1977. The WIFA had plans to set up a football stadium on 12,052 sq m. of the ground.
The plan also included other facilities, such as club-house, a swimming pool, a health club and tennis, badminton and squash courts. Local resident associations had gone to court against the construction of amenities in the stadium. The high court, however, ruled in favour of the football association.