For a city where residents scream themselves hoarse to protect any scrap of open space, Mumbai seems to have a municipal corporation almost mute in its fervour to protect it. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, in its boundless wisdom, has let go of an open space measuring 7,220 sq feet in the choc-a-bloc western suburbs. The BMC general body rejected a proposal to purchase the plot, reserved for a recreation ground, in Bangur Nagar in Goregaon (W).
The plot was reserved as a recreational ground by the BMC in 1994. Last year, the owner of the plot issued a purchase notice to the BMC on June 4, asking if the civic body was interested in buying it. As per rules, if the BMC is interested in the purchase, it has to start the process of plot acquisition within a year of the purchase notice. The corporation, however, rejected the proposal on Monday at its general body meeting.
This should come as suffocating news to a city that ranks abysmally when it comes to space open or closed. As per a survey last year, the per capita open space in Mumbai is 1.95 sq m and thinning, which is worse than Tokyo, the world’s most populous metropolis. On March 7, the BMC’s civic improvements committee refused to buy the plot after the development plan (DP) department advised that it fell under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) and was, therefore, of no use. Land that falls under CRZ cannot be developed without getting the nod of the environment ministry.
“We took the decision (not to buy the open space) as per the DP department’s recommendations,” said Ram Barot, chairman of the improvement committee. Rajjiv Kuknur, DP chief engineer, was not available for comment. According to the civic officials, the reservation period for the Goregaon plot has now lapsed, as the BMC failed to develop it within 20 years of marking reservation on it.
And since the BMC is not buying it, the owner is free to sell it to whomever he wishes. The Maharashtra Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act, 1966 states that a plot reserved for public amenities should be acquired by the local government for development within 20 years of it being reserved in accordance with the DP guidelines.
After this period, the owner can serve a notice to the corporation under Section 127 of the MRTP Act and ask it to purchase the plot. If the corporation does not buy it, the reservation lapses. Mayor Sunil Prabhu was not aware of the fact that the BMC had decided not to purchase the plot. “I will speak to the officials and make efforts so the city does not lose the open space.”