TDR windfall for open spaces in suburbs
As Reported by Sharad Vyas, Times of India, 30 Jun 2008, ,TNN
MUMBAI: Details procured under the Right to Information (RTI) Act have revealed that some wards in the suburbs have lakhs, and others crores, of rupees to maintain open spaces.
The BMC created a new budget head last year wherein a portion of money collected from builders who bought transfer of development rights (TDR) would be used exclusively to provide and maintain open spaces.
If builders use TDR but do not provide the required open space, then they must pay compensation to the BMC. "The ward where the TDR has been used will have the first right to decide the manner in which the money will be used," said Ram Dhas, chief accountant, BMC.
"The fees or compensation at the end of the year is transferred to a special fund called the development fund."
An RTI reply from the building proposal department revealed that the H-West ward, covering prime areas such as Bandra and Khar, collected around Rs 9 crore for open spaces in 2007-08, while the H East ward boasted of Rs 2 crore.
Revenue collected from the L, N and K-East (Andheri) wards amounted to Rs 3.6 lakh, Rs 68 lakh and Rs 4.7 crore, respectively. Similarly, the S and T wards had Rs 1.12 crore and Rs 1 crore, respectively.
Several of the cityís open spaces are suffering from neglect and also in the danger of gradually being lost to private organisations.
There was much controversy about giving open spaces over to organisations on a caretaker basis. Chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh intervened and ordered a stay on the scheme last November.
BMC officials had then stated that they had the funds to take care of civic open spaces. Revenue collected from the TDR sales were in addition to their budget.
Every ward is entitled to its amount under a separate head. The money is to be used to maintain recreation grounds, playgrounds, open spaces and other such facilities.
"When a particular ward needs a certain amount of money to develop existing open spaces, money from this head can be used. The BMC has been offering TDR in lieu of plots acquired for various public amenities since 1993. This budget is an added advantage to every ward," said B S Patil, deputy chief engineer, Development Plan I.
The decision to set up a separate budget was taken last year after a high court order was passed in this connection on a PIL challenging the use of slum TDR between S V Road and the Western Express Highway.
A committee has been formed in every ward to accept complaints on the maintenance of open spaces. The panel comprises the assistant municipal commissioner, complaint officer of the ward, assistant engineer (building proposals) and maintenance and account officer.
Though activists campaigning for open spaces believe that the money can be of great use, they also feel that nothing can be lauded until the results are there for all to see.
"The money is only on paper. Unless we see that it has been utilised, how do we know what is happening?" asked Neera Punj, chief convener of NGO Citispace.
According to Vidya Vaidya, also of Citispace, it is necessary to know how much a ward is actually spending. "Just having the money is not good enough. It should be put to good use and information on the expenditure should be provided to the public," she said.
Mumbaiís open space-to-people ratio is one of the lowest for any city in the world. The global norm is 4 acres for every 1,000 people but a two- to-three-decade-old survey puts the cityís ratio at .03 acre for every 1,000 people. Even this figure could be inflated as it was computed when Mumbai had a population of 9 million.
TDR windfall for open spaces in suburbs-Mumbai-Cities-The Times of India