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Mumbai residents protest new open space policy

Pvt parties are being allowed to construct structures on 25% open spaces for commercial exploitation, reports Naresh Kamath.
None | By Naresh Kamath, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON OCT 27, 2006 10:51 PM IST

Opposition to the leasing out of the 623 open spaces consisting of playgrounds, parks, gardens and recreation grounds is increasing across the city.

City NGO’s, Urban planners and environmentalists have all decried the move saying it would adversely affect the quality of life of the common citizens and asking for scrapping the policy.

"This is a clear cut policy to facilitate land grabbing of the remaining open plots," accused Nayana Kathpalia, co-convenor, CITISPACE, the NGO which fights to retain open spaces in the city.

“Oval Maidan and Priyadarshani parks are among the best public spaces adopted by local bodies without constructing any clubs there. It is unfair to profit from these grounds at the cost of other citizens,” said Kathpalia.

Protests are over the fact that private parties are allowed to construct clubs, gymnasiums or any structure on 25 percent of the open space and commercial exploit the place.

Previous experiments were unpleasant as clubs started treating the entire plot as private property and restrained citizens from entering the premises.

Urban planners point that this policy would cause havoc for the citizens, especially the future generation.

“Today a child no longer has an open ground to play sports. Open spaces are integral part of any development and since BMC is the local body, it is their responsibility to make it available to the citizens and they cannot just shrug it off,” said G S Pantbalesundari, Urban Planner.

Environmentalists are also peeved over the depletion of open spaces is directly related to the increase in diseases and adverse affects on health of individuals.

“These are the only remaining green spaces in the city full of pollution where people can breathe fresh air. If entry to the parks are stopped, it would have an adverse affect the health of the citizens,” said Rishi Agarwal, volunteer, Mumbai Environmental Social Network, the NGO which takes up environmental issues.

"There will be actual construction in only 15 percent of total area which is very small portion.

"The NGO’s should adopt a practical approach as this step would only stop encroachments and citizens would get modern amenities,” said Sharad Petiwala, BMC Improvement Committee Chairman.        

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