5 yrs after airport authority walled off Mumbai playground, locals say BMC won’t listen to pleas

mumbai Updated: Aug 24, 2017 00:48 IST
Geetanjali Gurlhosur
Geetanjali Gurlhosur
Hindustan Times
BMC,Mumbai International Airport,public land

Sahar residents say the wall blocks a road running through their village.(Shashi S Kashyap/hT )

A playground in Sahar’s Sutar Pakhadi gaothan has turned into a walled airport land closed to local residents, despite being reserved for public usage. Residents said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has turned a deaf ear to several complaints by locals and activists.

Villagers said the space was used for years by the area’s football clubs and those hosting recreational activities. However, five years ago, the 3,300-sq-m open space was acquired by the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL).

A wall was put up, blocking a village road that runs through the open space.

“The land belonged to my family since the 1800s. Airport representatives said the land belongs to them and they have compensated our ancestors for it. But, there is no proof of this,” said Noel Boothello, a member of one of the gaothan’s oldest families.

Resident Austin Boothello said he has ownership documents that prove the land belongs to his late grandmother Rita.

“After numerous complaints, we also filed a petition in the court in May. But, the BMC has failed to act,” he said. He added that the MIAL also chopped trees on the land.

NGO Watchdog Foundation said the land was reserved for a playground in the Development Plan 1991 and once again in the 2016 draft.

“The airport legally owns the land now, but since it has been reserved for a playground, it should be opened to public during restricted hours, according to the rules,” Sushma Rai, corporator, told HT.

MIAL built the high wall around the vacant plot and built an alternative road through the village in April. When the villagers objected to the land acquisition, several policemen were brought in to control the situation. Fearing that the space in front of their houses would also be taken over, locals had put up a tin wall between the road and their homes.

The MIAL spokesperson and local ward officer were unavailable for comment.

“They can keep the plot and use it for the city’s development, but only if they show us the acquisition papers first. They are unwilling to meet us and show us proof,” added the Boothellos.

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 00:47 IST