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Mumbai: Don’t want parking lots at cost of open spaces, say locals

Updated on: 17 February,2023 07:29 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Prajakta Kasale |

Juhu, Bandra residents vehemently oppose BMC’s plan to create spaces for vehicles underneath civic gardens

Mumbai: Don’t want parking lots at cost of open spaces, say locals

Pushpa Narsee Park at JVPD Scheme in Juhu on Thursday. Pic/Anurag Ahire

The BMC’s suggestion that parking lots be created beneath civic gardens to deal with the menace of unauthorised parking of vehicles on roads has raised the hackles of citizens. While Juhu citizens will hold a meeting on Sunday to discuss the issue, Bandra locals are discussing the pros and cons of the idea. While the plan to create underground parking lots has been kicked around for the past six to seven years, citizens have generally opposed it.

The issue resurfaced after Additional Municipal Commissioner P Velarasu visited Raosaheb Patwardhan Park at Bandra West and Pushpa Narsee Park at JVPD Scheme in Juhu on February 2. In a press note issued by the BMC, it was mentioned that local MLAs demanded that parking lots be built beneath these gardens. During the visit, P Velarasu examined the sites and instructed that tenders be floated for the construction of underground parking lots.

In its 2023-24 budget, the corporation proposed the setting up of mechanical robotic parking systems on open spaces in its own parks and playgrounds. The budget document also mentions that the process regarding the work order is underway for work at three places—Raosaheb Patwardhan Park, Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo at Byculla East and Municipal Engineering Hub, Worli. However, the JVPD garden wasn’t mentioned.

Raosaheb Patwardhan Park at Bandra West. File Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Raosaheb Patwardhan Park at Bandra West. File Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Residents of Juhu, along with environmentalists and activists, have been vocal about their opposition to the plan. “We have been demanding a parking lot for the past few years as our roads have become a dumping yard for unknown vehicles from other locations. But we don’t want it at the cost of open space. The corporation has a huge land parcel of its own which it uses as a dumping yard near the 5th Road market. They can use their creativity and ingenuity instead of uprooting the park,” said Chetan Shah, a resident of Gulmohar Road.

Another resident added that building an underground parking lot means the demolition of the existing park, removal of all the trees and replacing the soil floor with a cement floor over which soil and plants will be added for show. “The floor will not allow the soil to breathe nor allow rainwater to be absorbed. The park is surrounded on three sides by 30-metre-wide roads that are used for parking vehicles. If underground parking is really needed, an entire parking lot can be built under the existing road,” said the resident.

Environmentalist Zoru Bhathena, who initiated the movement for preserving Pushpa Narsee Park, said, “We oppose plans to build parking lots below any garden. Parks are not parking lots. Most of the BMC’s existing public parking lots are lying vacant. The concept of having a public parking lot, where none is needed, is a failed one.”

Anand Pendharkar, an ecologist, said. “We should ensure all public parks and places are free from construction. Part of Azad Maidan was taken away for a Metro station, the Coastal Road is passing through Priyadarshini Park, and Maheshwari Udyan had a flyover built through it. It is a systematic destruction of Mumbai’s green and open space.” He added that citizens would refuse to fall for the “fake promise” that the park would be restored to its original status.

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A discussion about creating underground parking at Raosaheb Patwardhan Park was had some five to six years ago, but after a meeting with the BMC, no new plan was shared with citizens. “There were multiple objections. The spot already has a paid parking facility. Also, it is a flood-prone area. Even after the construction of a lot, moving hawkers into the basement would not be safe for buyers. Also, it won’t guarantee that hawkers won’t come back on the streets,” said Deyasini Choudhury, an architect and trustee of H West Ward Federation.

She added, “Most importantly, the planning would lead to trees being hacked to create the basement and more trees won’t be allowed to be planted. Underground parking should be planned at a sports grounds where there isn’t much tree cover. Gardens should not be touched.”

Sunil Khosla, a Bandra local, said, “This has been discussed for the past five years. Once an underground parking lot is created in the garden, it will be used mostly by beggars and hawkers. Illegal activities could take place there.”

However, not everyone is completely against the move. Rohinton Polishwala, a Linking Road resident, said, “There were no objections to the plans as per our last meeting with MLA Ashish Shelar in November. However, residents were not happy with the idea as the area would have led to vehicular congestion.”

Day in Feb when P Velarasu visited Bandra, Juhu

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