The city has always struggled for open spaces, and the report brought out by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region-Environment Improvement Society (MMR-EIS), quantifies how badly off Mumbai is.
There are 45 open spaces plots on the critical list and in need of urgent attention, only 35% of the open spaces designated for Mumbaiites are accessible to all and 160 hectares of open spaces could be lost forever if the civic body goes ahead with its controversial open spaces policy.
The civic body’s proposed open spaces policy permits private parties to take over 25% of the area of recreation grounds, provided they pay to maintain the remaining 75% of the ground.
Past experiences have revealed that in such cases, often clubs backed by political parties take over these open spaces and block access to the public. Since November 2007, HT has been campaigning for the city’s open spaces and tracking the issue.
The report prepared by the MMR-EIS, a body funded by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, is on all environmental features of the city.
Each citizen has just 0.8 square metre of open spaces to himself or herself, a pitiable figure as per international standards, states the report on open spaces and water bodies, prepared by architect and urban planner Neera Adarkar.
Of the 2,968 hectares of open spaces designated for the city under the development plan, only 35%, or 1,053 hectares, is available to citizens. “But that does not mean these places are fit to be frequented. We found that problems of accessibility, safety and maintenance plague many of these open spaces,” said Adarkar.
The report highlights the poor implementation of the city’s development plan (DP). Of the 3,246 open spaces plots proposed in the DP, only 888 currently exist; the remaining 2,358 plots are yet to be acquired.
While analysing the condition of open spaces at the ward-level, the report found that only five of the 24 administrative wards have more than 90% of the area reserved available for the public.
“The issue of under-utilisation of open spaces is not being taken seriously. While on the one hand, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation claims it does not have the funds to acquire plots and develop them as open spaces, it allows the commercial exploitation of existing lands, which is hypocritical,” Adarkar said.