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    C J Karira
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    Loopholes in BMC’s open space policy

    Privately-held reserved plots that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) doesn’t acquire even after a decade will revert to the original owner. This recent Supreme Court order has been used by Citispace, a city-based NGO, to file a request under the RTI to ascertain how many plots there are of this kind in the city. “The BMC has no list of the number of privately-owned reserved plots or how many of them have been acquired,” says Nayana Kathpalia, co-convenor, Citispace.

    Under the 1998 Development Plan (DP), several tracts of privately-owned land across the city were reserved for acquisition by the BMC for the development of public services. These include bus terminals; recreational parks; playgrounds; health clinics as well as for widening of roads. But BMC hasn’t acquired most of them and the owners have begun selling them to developers.

    Take the 1,500 square metres of land earmarked for a truck terminus at BR Road, Mulund. “The owner has been trying to de-reserve the property as the BMC hadn’t yet acquired it but we have prodded the BMC to initiate acquisition procedures,”saysMulund-resident Mahabir Urf, who has been fighting to save the only open space in the area.

    Three months ago, residents of Carmichael Road rallied against the owner of a playground in the area who planned to sell the plot to a private developer. “The Carmichael Road instance is not isolated. We have been getting several such complaints from other parts in the city.

    The BMC says it has no money to acquire these plots but that is no excuse. Many of these plots are being used as playgrounds or open spaces,” adds Kathpalia.

    The DP stipulates that the BMC has to acquire the reserved plots from their owners at prevailing market rates. However, this hasn’t been the case.

    “The budget process for acquisition can take up to 8-9 years. Also, there is no specific amount earmarked, so lumpsum payments have to be made to the Special Land Acquisition Officer to buy it,” says Ashok Shintre, chief engineer, Development Plan.

    Pankaj Joshi of Urban Design Research Institute says, “The DP schemes look great on paper but are irrelevant given the city’s surging population. It was devised in the 1970s and ratified in 1991. Mumbai’s population has shot up by 25 per cent and so has its need for open spaces.”

    Experts also say that land acquisition procedures are tedious. Moreover, the Transfer of Development Rights isn’t an attractive proposition. “Most prefer to profit by selling the land rather than getting another plot in the suburbs in exchange,” says SS Tinaikar, former Municipal commissioner.

    The BMC now wants to revise the DP. But the DP gives the BMC no time frame for acquiring the land. “All it says that the property must be developed for some public utility service,” adds Shintre.

    DNA - Mumbai - Loopholes in BMC’s open space policy - Daily News & Analysis

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    Last edited by karira; 09-12-07 at 12:33 PM.

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