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Mumbai: BMC's open spaces policy gathering dust

In a city where open spaces are already in short supply, the policy to protect and make the existing ones accessible to citizens is gathering dust.

mumbai Updated: Dec 17, 2014 22:30 IST
Sanjana Bhalerao
Sanjana Bhalerao
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,BMC,Open spaces

In a city where open spaces are already in short supply, the policy to protect and make the existing ones accessible to citizens is gathering dust.

For the past six months, the policy has been awaiting ratification from group leaders in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

At a group leaders’ meeting in June this year, the civic body had tabled the draft for discontinuing the caretaker policy for open spaces and only renewing the adoption policy, which does not allow any construction on spaces. Under the adoption policy, an organisation adopting a ground will also have the responsibility of maintaining it.

However, this policy has not been seriously debated in the civic body, with the opposition and the administration squarely blaming the ruling Shiv Sena for the delay.

When the policy was tabled in June, it was deferred citing elections. And despite chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ statement in the assembly on Tuesday on introducing the open spaces policy as soon as possible, there is little movement in the civic body on this front two months after the assembly election results were declared.

“In the last group leaders’ meeting, the mayor denied that it is pending proposal. She is clearly under pressure from the party (Shiv Sena) as many party leaders hold these grounds under the caretaker policy and are using them for commercial purposes,” said Rais Shaikh, group leader, Samajwadi Party.

The city has been without a policy on open space for more than seven years. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) original policy was stalled in 2007 after widespread opposition from activists.

There are at least eight large plots in the city that have been handed over to organisations run by senior party leaders.

Under the earlier policy, the open spaces were given on lease for a minimum of 33 years to private organisations for maintenance. The organisations were allowed to construct structures on the ground and a charge nominal fee to citizens. However, the policy was stalled citing widespread misuse.

As per the draft policy, depending on the plot size, organisations will have to show a turnover between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 5 crore, and the turnover should be consistent for five years i.e. the adoption period.

“We have made the adoption norms stringent but it is pending with group leaders for approval,” said a civic body official. “There are hardly any new plots left to be given for adoption as many have been already developed or are under civic body’s maintenance.”

Currently, there are 1052 open spaces in the city, out of which 186 are under adoption, over 700 have been developed and more than 200 are under civic body’s garden department for maintenance.

“We will once again have a meeting with the group leaders and discuss the drafted policy,” said SVR Srinivas, additional municipal commissioner in charge of the garden department.

"There is no delay on our part, we will discuss the policy in the next meeting," said Trushna Vishwasrao, Shiv Sena group leader.

Mayor Snehal Ambekar was unavailable for comment.

First Published: Dec 17, 2014 22:26 IST