Let Mumbai breathe

Apr 14, 2012, 06:25 IST | Soma Das

Breathing Space is a tribute to Mumbai's open spaces and a call to its citizens to safeguard its green lungs. From discussions to walk-in panels, and the sale of artefacts by rural artisans, it's a cause worth dropping by for

Mumbai might be dubbed the city of dreams but its a nightmare in terms of open spaces. Statistics reveal that the city offers a mere 0.03 acres of open spaces accessible per person despite the National Building Code specifying that there should be at least four acres of open spaces per person accessible to residents.

The open spaces at the  Mahalaxmi Racecourse is used by walkers and joggers. Pic/ Nimesh Dave

This weekend, an event titled Breathing Space, will be organised to raise awareness about residents’ right to open spaces and to mobilise people to safeguard reserved public open spaces. The event has been organised by the NGO CitiSpace (Citizens’ Forum for Protection of Public Spaces), Tribe@Turf, a community dedicated to preserving the sustainability of the city, and cultural platform Hathautee.

“The catalyst for the event is that the lease for the 23-acre Mahalakshmi Racecourse expires in 2013. Apart from racing, the public area is also used by joggers, school children and sports enthusiasts. It’s used as a venue for cultural programmes as well. Breathing Space is a call of action to Mumbaikars asking them to reclaim open spaces by identifying and utilising them. It’s about making people realise through local examples that in a city choked of greenery, open spaces make for perfect cultural and leisure venues,” explained a Tribe@Turf representative.

Localised movements in Bandra and Juhu have taken off, yet a citywide movement is missing. At the exhibition, panel discussions will include representatives from CitiSpace and local wards who will debate on measures to preserve endangered open spaces from land grabs. Stress will also be laid on the hazardous fallout during calamities.

Visual panels and art installations based on the 2011 survey conducted by CitiSpace, of 600 reserved open spaces across 24 Mumbai wards with satellite images and photographs will be on display. Neera Punj and Nayana Kathpalia of CitiSpace headed this survey done by architects and assisted by architecture students. They surveyed over 1,000 reserved open spaces across Mumbai which revealed that a significant proportion of open spaces were used by squatters, became garbage dumping options or hawking and parking spots.
At the venue, Hathautee has re-created an artisan village which will allow you to watch live demonstrations and buy handmade artefacts crafted by 40 rural artisans. Based on the response to the event, the display may travel to other venues as well.

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