The major fire which broke out at Ambedkar Nagar, Cuffe Parade on Thursday once again highlights the burning issue of encroachment of open spaces. Clearly, the fire would not have gutted as much an area had there been fewer hutments.
Few areas which fall under the jurisdiction of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), District Collector or Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) are free of encroachment. Eighty per cent of the land which falls under the District Collector, for instance, is encroached.
The District Collector’s office, however, is of the opinion that this would not have been the case if they had enough manpower and mechanism and did not have to depend on other authorities for clearing or protecting their land.
“Several letters have gone to the State government and we have asked for adequate staff so the status of open spaces in our jurisdiction is checked,” said an officer from the office, on condition of anonymity.
Interestingly, the Collector’s office depends on the civic body to clear the encroachment and on MMRDA to protect the land after encroachers are cleared from that area.
City Collector, CV Oak, said, “Due to unavailability of manpower and machinery, we often write to the BMC and police to clear the encroachment but even after they clear it, encroachers return. Recently we requested the MMRDA to protect the clearedland so there is no encroachment. They have that particular land for us.”
The BMC has approximately 3,500 open spaces, including those reserved as recreation grounds, playground, parks, gardens and open spaces of various departments reserved for schools, buildings and so on. Of these, more than 2,000 open spaces are encroached.
Yet, all SS Shinde, joint commissioner BMC, had to say on the matter was: “We have special drives where encroachment is cleared regularly, but due to lack of development on the open spaces, and delay in allottment of funds, development of these plots is postponed and encroachers return.”
Dilip Kawathkar, joint project director, MMRDA, said, “In the past, we have extended our help to the Collector as there were specific notifications to protect those open spaces. We will continue doing that.”