Give Ulhasnagar kids their open space, say residents
Sprawled over 2 acres, Gol Maidan in Ulhasnagar was popular with children and senior citizens. Children running around, playing sports or just enjoying the open space was a common sight.
Gol Maidan has now turned into a venue for public and political gatherings, events and fairs.
Children hardly have space to play here. Although there is a volleyball court, it has not been maintained properly. An open space with a stage is the venue for events and out of bounds for children.
Only 20% of the ground is used for children and the rest is rented out for public and political gatherings.
Pravin Duseja, 74, has been living near the ground for 50 years.
“I shifted to this part of the city so that my children will have an option to play. Today, the ground has no space to play. We have seen the ground dying,” said Duseja, adding that the ground hosts functions throughout the year.
The fight against the violations at Gol Maidan began in December 2016 after a spiritual event was organised on the ground. Residents complained about noise pollution during the event.
Hirali Foundation, an NGO fighting against noise pollution, filed a contempt petition against the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC) in the Bombay high court.
“The loudspeakers recorded 100 decibel sound, which inconvenienced residents. Since then, we started acting upon violations and approached the court and state government with complaints,” said Sarita Khanchandhani, founder of the Foundation.
Around 300 flats have been built around the ground.
“The ground is given on rent for public and political gatherings which becomes noisy. There is a fair organised around Diwali. With so many people thronging the ground, the area becomes chaotic,” added Khanchandani.
The Foundation wants the ground only for children. The Gol Maidan earlier was an open ground with no fencing, open for the children throughout the year.
“The portion of the ground which is still with the UMC is occupied most of the time. As per the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act 1966, the ground can be given on rent for 12 days at a stretch and only 45 days throughout the year. Gol Maidan is rented out throughout the year. Portions of the ground have been concretised to put up pandals which is a violation,” said Khanchandani.
When UMC was formed in 1996, the ground was reserved with it, and it started giving portions of the ground on lease.
An UMC official, who did not wish to be named, said, “The civic body gives out a part of the ground on rent to generate revenue. The portions, which are on lease, have gardens where children can play. The civic body ensures that all the norms are followed while letting out the ground.”
Noisiest spot in Ulhasnagar
In a survey in June 2018 by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Ulhasnagar was the noisiest city in the state. Last year, too, Ulhasnagar continued to be the noisiest city in the state. Hirali Foundation recorded the sound at night which showed that it has crossed the permissible level of noise. Gol Maidan was found to be the noisiest spot in the city.
“The civic body should have at least developed one portion of it as an open ground for children. There are several other places to hold public and political gatherings in the city,” said Manisha Wadhwani, 38, a resident of Gol Maidan, Ulhasnagar
“I used to play on the ground when I was a child. My grandchildren do not have this option. The garden built is small and open for everyone. Children need space to hone their skill in various sports,” said Satya Kulkarni, 65, a resident of Gol Maidan, Ulhasnagar.