The department recently approved an ‘excluded plan’ of the Development Control and Promotion Regulation 2034 (DCPR 2034) for the K-East (Andheri East) ward, reducing the open space requirement against 20 reserved open spaces to 50% and allowing the remaining 50% to be commercially exploited. It has further decreed that the land owner needs to provide public access to only 20% of the reserved 50%, effectively bringing down public access to these reserved open spaces from 100% earlier to 10%.
Mumbai has the least open space per person (1.28 m) among global cities. The city’s latest development plan aims to increase it to 6.13 sq m but this is likely to remain on paper as state governments over the years have only encouraged large- scale construction. By shrinking open spaces, the state has sadly again shown where its priorities lie.
These 20 reserved open spaces in Andheri East are part of five-star hotel grounds. All the hotels with these open spaces are along the way to the airport. Earlier, 100% of each of these open spaces were open to the public for restricted hours.
Activists blame govt, BMC for reduced open spaces
The new plan favours the plot owner by allowing him to surrender 10% to the BMC to be kept open permanently to the public. In return, the plot owner actually gets to keep 90% of the plot for his use (50% for commercial and 40% as a private park).
“Prior to the DCPR 2034, the plot reserved for open space was 100% open to the public. Now the public will have access to only 10%, while the owner gets benefit of 90% of the plot. In a city starved of open spaces, how much more cruel can the government get?” asked activist and convener of Watchdog Foundation, Godfrey Pimenta.
This is in sharp contrast to Singapore, where the government has ensured public open spaces in all high-end areas, allowing the public access to open areas even if it means crossing hotel lobbies.
Under the 1991 Development Control regulations, all the 20 Andheri East plots were 100% open to the public for certain hours of the day. “Except for Hotel ITC Grand Maratha, none of the others would allow the public access to these open spaces. This was further aided by the BMC not putting up boards in prominent places informing that these parks are open to the public. Now the government and BMC have aided the hotels in officially ensuring the public does not have access to these open spaces,” Pimenta said.
Under the new rules, the BMC has stipulated “that 50% of these lands in revenue village Sahar be reserved for the park. These open spaces on the Development Plan are not required to be acquired by the BMC. The remaining 50% of the land be deleted and included in C zone only for hotel- plus commercial purpose and be kept open for general public during restricted hours.”The same rule offers a further option to the plot owner. It states, “The owner may at his option hand over 20% of the reduced reserved open space to the BMC to be kept permanently open for the general public without any compensation in any form and maintain the rest of the park as a park always. No floor space index/transfer of development rights compensation in any form shall be allowed for the area kept permanently open as park and even for the area to be handed over to the BMC.”
Nayana Kathpalia, trustee, NAGAR, said this was not at all good for the city which already has very few open spaces.