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BMC must think hard before it claims public spaces

Yesterday, this paper ran a front page story on how the SK Patil Garden in Charni Road in south Mumbai has been encroached upon by the BMC itself. This is highly ironical, as this little enclave of green in the bustling Charni Road area, belonged to the BMC itself.

This paper has been running a series of pieces on the SK Patil Udyan, which now seems be lost to the residents, at least in part.

Our reports stated that when it is returned to the residents, it will not have the same dimension that it had when the water supply department closed it down for work way back in 2007.

While there has been a huge delay in returning the garden to the residents, with its gates being closed to the public for over five years and an expenditure of Rs 156 crore, residents have been left with a smaller garden.

What makes the situation border on the absurd is the fact that the garden department has only just learnt that a chunk of this garden has been taken away by the water department.

While this may be an internal matter, the bottom line is that once again, Mumbai’s residents starved of outdoor spaces or parks for recreational activities, have had to sacrifice a part of their park for civic reasons.

This city needs to safeguard its open spaces zealously and with eternal vigilance. While civic officials say that a water tunnel is needed, it is strange how continually green and open spaces are encroached upon, either for transport infrastructure or some other amenity.

This is not counting the number of times builders have eyed open spaces and somehow managed to take them away by bending the rules and getting permissions.

South Mumbai especially has very few open spaces left and a park is a rarity and luxury in this part of the city.

While a water tunnel may have been necessary here, it is also important that alternatives be found and open spaces
continue to be a vital part of the city’s amenities and geography.

The constant tussle between development and recreational spaces is taking a toll on the residents who may not have the time or influence to stop parks or spaces from being taken away. Let authorities ensure that they choose wisely and well when taking away spaces — if there is any alternative, leave the open space for Mumbaikars who really need it.

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