BMC scraps draft policy on open spaces
The earlier policy that allows adoption of open spaces for eleven months shall continue to remain in force, BMC commissioner Iqbal Chahal told HT
Mumbai: Heeding to citizens’ objections, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has scrapped the draft policy on open spaces published in September 2023, which would allow private entities and NGOs to lease playgrounds and recreation grounds for up to five years. The earlier policy that allows adoption of open spaces for eleven months shall continue to remain in force, BMC commissioner Iqbal Chahal told HT.
“The existing adoption policy will continue because a large number of citizens wrote to us saying that if open plots are given to private parties for five years, they may be grabbed by vested interests and not come back to the BMC,” he said. There are 1,104 recreation grounds and playgrounds under the civic body, whose area comprises 562 hectares.
The BMC received over 100 written suggestions and objections to the draft policy on open spaces published on September 8, 2023. “There were many recommendations, and it is best left to the elected body to decide such policies. These policies go on for decades and doesn’t matter if the new policy comes when the elected body is in place,” said Chahal.
Activists and citizens fighting for the preservation of open public spaces in the city, who had vehemently opposed the draft policy, welcomed the BMC’s decision. They also demanded the scrapping of the 11-month adoption policy, introduced in December 2016, saying it was promoting third party interests.
“The 11-month adoption policy should be scrapped and all public open spaces should be looked after by the BMC,” said Ashok Ravat, a veteran public spaces activist. He said there was no need to create third party interests even for a day as the land belonged to the civic body.
The BMC had in the past given away open plots to private parties and politicians claiming it was short of funds, said Ravat. “The BMC now has the financial resources and the workforce to maintain open spaces. So, there appears no rationale for transferring control of these spaces for eleven months,” he noted.
Ravat and others criticised the BMC’s failure to reclaim 21 open plots given to private parties and politicians under various policies earlier. Chahal, however, said those plots were outside the purview of the draft policy. “The matter of 21 open spaces still in private control was never an issue in the new draft policy. The committee on open spaces had recommended that status quo should be maintained on those 21 plots,” he said.