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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Pending policy on Mumbai’s open spaces more disastrous than interim one, say activists

From entry fee to commercial use to increased lease period, the proposed policy spells doom for open spaces

mumbai Updated: Nov 25, 2017 23:39 IST
Sagar Pillai
Sagar Pillai
Hindustan Times
Mumbai has 216 open spaces.
Mumbai has 216 open spaces.(HT Photo)

As the debate rages on who should maintain open spaces, activists believe that the proposed policy, which is yet to be sanctioned by the group of leaders of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), is more disastrous than the recently-approved interim one.

The interim policy will regulate all aspects of open spaces, including their upkeep and selection of caretakers, until a final one is approved by the BMC.

The proposed policy, introduced in 2015, allows the BMC to hand over open spaces to entities for commercially use and construction of toilet blocks and a shed on the boundary of a plot. Worse, caretakers can also charge citizens from Rs 2 or Rs 5 (if the money spent on an open space is more than Rs 1 crore) and display up to five advertisement boards to earn revenue. Citizen activists fear that such entities will eventually grab open spaces.

There are 216 open spaces in Mumbai and the BMC has reclaimed 187 of them. The drive to take back all open spaces from them came after chief minister Devendra asked the BMC to do so in 2016.

According to the pending policy, open spaces are required to be maintained by private entities and non-governmental organisations.

This defeats the whole purpose of reclaiming open spaces from them, say activists.

While the interim policy states that the final nod to select all caretakers will be given by the municipal commissioner, the original policy does not mandate such approval. Another reason that has made activists furious is the lease period. The interim policy requires adoptees to take care of open spaces for 11 months, whereas the proposed policy puts it to five years.

Activists have criticised both the policies for allowing a third-party to maintain open spaces.

Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner who has started an online petition against the open spaces policy, said, “This interim policy is just an eyewash. It once again allows politicians to acquire these plots, which was one of the main reasons why the original policy was criticised. Why does the BMC seek a third-party support, when it can take care of open spaces itself?”

Another point that makes the proposed policy worse is the entry fee. The pending policy allows organisations to charge visitors above 12 years of age for access, while the interim policy does not mandate any entry fee.

The interim policy strictly states that the BMC can take back without any prior notice. A senior civic official said, “The earlier policy allows commercial use of the facility with prior permission from the additional municipal commissioner. The interim policy strictly disallows this. The interim policy has stricter rules and conditions.”

First Published: Nov 25, 2017 23:36 IST

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