Mumbai: BMC could keep some gardens open 24/7
After mid-day campaign prompted then BMC chief Ajoy Mehta to extend timings, his successor Praveen Pardeshi goes a step further and decides to keep gardens open all day
After months of brainstorming and bargaining, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has finally decided to do away with the three-hour break in garden timings. Following mid-day's Garden Audit and campaign, the civic body had last year extended timings but continued to keep gardens closed from 12 pm to 3 pm for maintenance. In a meeting with NGOs and activists on Tuesday, the authorities, however, decided to change this.
Over the past one year, mid-day has consistently reported on citizens' demand for allowing gardens to stay open for longer hours. The BMC too finally agreed and is now even considering keeping some gardens open round the clock. Other aspects regarding safety, etc too were discussed at Tuesday's meeting while the BMC frames its garden policy.
Also Read: 'Don't give the gardens to commercial users'
The ratio of open space per capita in the city is quite dismal at 1.28 sq meter per capita. And to make matters worse, open spaces like gardens and parks remain available only in certain slots. While the city has more than 1,000 gardens and parks, most of them only remain open from 6 am to 9 am and from 5 pm to 8 pm. The timings are not uniform either. Despite public demand, surveys and reports, the BMC was reluctant to keep them open for longer hours citing security and maintenance issues.
Following mid-day's garden audit, then municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta enabled the 6 am to 12 noon and from 3 pm to 9 pm timings last year. They remained closed for three hours for watering and sweeping. "How can the BMC decide when people should use public open spaces? It is our right to have access to gardens and parks as per our requirement," said Nayana Kathpalia, trustee of NGO NAGAR who attended Tuesday's meeting on the garden policy.
Citizens have demanded increased access to its open spaces. File pic
A number of suggestions and objections came up in the meeting. "We have taken notes and will draft the policy accordingly," said Ashutosh Salil, joint municipal commissioner, adding that the suggestion to open gardens from 6 am to 10 pm "could be implemented immediately." Gardens are public places, he said, and "we will discuss the hurdles and precautions in the process of keeping them open longer." An order in this regard was immediately released by Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, NGOs also spoke of the security factor. "We have demanded fencing, proper lighting and security guards in the gardens. The fencing shouldn't be concrete so one can see the gardens from outside," said Prasad Khale, conservation officer of the Conservation Action Trust.
24-hour gardens, next?
Environmental activist D Stalin welcome the move saying, "If we call gardens public spaces then it should be open for maximum time. BMC can enhance security using CCTV cameras etc." Maintenance can be done in phases after restricting entry in one part at a time, he said, adding, "We are thankful to Praveen Pardeshi for this decision."
Pardeshi also recently decided to develop Miyawaki gardens on 100 sites in the city and the BMC is now considering keeping one garden in each ward open for 24 hours. "There will be some security issues but we can work on one garden in each ward. If we can think of a 24-hours market then why not access to public space?" a civic official insisted.
An assistant superintendent of BMC's Garden Department told mid-day that every garden had a distinct visitors' group. "While most gardens see kids and their parents in the evenings, morning hours have morning walkers. Some gardens open as early as 5.30 am for Yoga groups while others near schools, colleges, office areas see people in the afternoon," he explained while adding that keeping gardens open in the afternoon may see some hurdles. "People object to watering while they are inside. There are also objections over couples visiting during afternoons. Another issue is that of drug addicts. More visitors will be a deterrent," he added.
Duration in the day for which most gardens are currently shut
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Mid-day Garden Audit 2018: BMC bows to citizens' demands to keep parks open from 6 am to 9 pm