Mumbai's open spaces in limbo

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Thursday 31 January 2008

Stay ordered there is very little clarity and much wrangling between Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the Maharashtra government over Mumbai's open space policy. The state government asked the corporation to put a stay on the policy. The local body in turn asked for a clarification on the stay order from the state government. The state government then asked the corporation for a report on Mumbai's open spaces but hasn't given the local body a strict timeframe for it.

Known as the rg/pg (recreation ground and play ground) policy, it has two sub-policies--caretaker policy and adoption policy. Under the adoption policy, the rg/pg is leased to trusts/ ngo s for five years. Construction is not allowed, except for a 3 m/3 m watchman- chowky -cum-store room. Open spaces in the caretaker policy are leased to private organizations/corporate bodies for a minimum period of 33 years and construction is allowed on 25 per cent of the total open space.

"The policy was not being implemented the way it was intended. The corporation needs to submit a report, based on which the state government will take a decision," Ramanand Tiwari, additional chief secretary, Maharashtra, said. On being probed further about which part of the policy was put on hold, he said, "The issue is highly controversial and I would not like to comment." R A Rajeev, additional municipal commissioner of the corporation, was also unavailable for clarification.

The caretaker policy had received a lot of flak, which had led the corporation to discontinue it. Implementation of the policy, town planners felt, would lead to handing over Mumbai's reserved open public spaces to private organizations/corporate bodies for development and maintenance (see 'Mumbai may lose its open spaces', Down To Earth, November 30, 2006).

But for the past one year, the corporation was working towards reintroducing the caretaker policy via an amendment. Despite protests, the corporation's improvement committee cleared the amendment in November 2007. But the state government put a stay on it and the corporation finally withdrew it in December. Citizen groups say a stay order on the policy is good news. "But we want it to be repealed," says Nayana Kathpalia, co-convener, of Mumbai-based CitiSpace, a citizens' forum for protection of public spaces.

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