Mumbai: Private players may get just a week to hand over gardens

Organisations are skeptical about the BMC’s ability to maintain the plots they have carefully developed; at least one says they will seek legal advice if they get a notice

The BMC may have issued notices to organisations maintaining 36 open spaces in the city, but more are going to follow. Amarsons garden, Bandstand garden, Priyadarshini Park, Bhakti Park garden, some of the biggest open spaces of the city, are among the 216 that will be issued notices in the future with a mere 7 days to hand them over to the civic body. The trusts or citizens’ organisations are skeptical about the BMC’s ability to maintain the plots they have so carefully developed.

The Amarsons garden at Bhulabhai Desai Road and Priyadarshini Park at Nepean Sea Road will also be issued notices. Pics/Nimesh Dave
The Amarsons garden at Bhulabhai Desai Road and Priyadarshini Park at Nepean Sea Road will also be issued notices. Pics/Nimesh Dave

Following the tremendous backlash to the BMC’s open space policy, the CM ordered municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta to review the policy and take back all the open spaces given on adoption basis. Various trusts, NGOs, citizens’ groups, corporates etc were given open spaces on adoption basis. They will be given seven days to comply, which effectively means to pass on all control to the BMC. The BMC’s garden department will then deploy security, gardeners etc and officially take over.

Some of the caretakers of the gardens have diligently maintained them for years and are unhappy about the move. Arup Sarbadhikary, president of the Bandra Bandstand Residents’ Trust, which maintains a 10,000 sq m garden at Bandstand, said, “I can’t say if the BMC will maintain this garden the same way. It was like a jungle when the BMC handed the spot over to us. We had to develop it with a lot of effort. Right now it has about 600 trees and shrubs. We have no commercial interest in it whatsoever. We don’t even charge an entry fee.” Sarbadhikary said that they would take legal advice in the matter if they are served a notice too.

The member of another organisation feels the BMC should not penalise parks that were always open to the public. The Malabar Hill Citizens’ Forum maintains Priyadarshini Park. Sushiben Shah, a member said, “How can they simply ask us to handover plots without a show-cause notice or a hearing? The park has always been open to the public. Shouldn’t that be the criteria? The BMC should acquire only those plots where the conditions have been breached. There is a difference between clubs maintained by politicians and public parks. And past experiences of the BMC maintaining open spaces are not good. If we get a notice, we will put our best foot forward.”

Shamjibhai Vora, owner of Amarsons stores, which maintains Amarsons garden, said, “I don’t think the BMC will be able to maintain it the way we did. We have spent R3.5 crore on this garden. Truck loads of white sand was especially brought in from Gujarat for this. Our annual expenditure on maintenance is R10-12 lakh. Will a public body do all this? I don’t expect money from them. I just hope they let us maintain it.”

On the other hand, the BMC is sure of maintaining the gardens well. “We are confident of maintaining these spaces. All we have to do is arrange for gardeners, horticulturalists, security and water. We can take the help of agencies for that. Right now we have sent notices to plots where it is possible to take them over immediately. Gradually, all will be sent notices. It is quite a mammoth exercise but we can manage it,” said a senior official from the Gardens Department.

He said that the decision to compensate organisations will be taken by the municipal commissioner. As of now, there is no such provision.

Some of the gardens that will be issued notices include
>> Priyadarshini Park
>> Cuffe Parade garden
>> Colaba woods
>> Garden at Bandstand
>> Amarsons garden
>> Mai Mangeshkar garden, Shivaji Park
>> Meenatai Thackeray garden, Andheri East
>> Bhakti Park garden, Wadala
>> Playground next to Shyam Narayan Thakur school, Kandivli

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