South Mumbai Residents Win Their Fight To Save a Children’s Park
South Mumbai residents win back children’s park after fighting tooth and nail with the BMC.
When Marushka Shah’s family bought a home in Mumbai’s posh Cumballa Hill area, they zeroed in on an apartment located opposite a beautiful green plot earmarked for a children’s park. Despite having to shell out a huge amount, Marushka was just glad that her children could get an opportunity to enjoy the green cover. However, the BMC’s new development plan 2034 left her and other residents in South Mumbai shocked. The one-acre green cover had been thrown open for residential development.
This park has been the reason for our move here. We are very fortunate to overlook this beautiful green patch that is so rare in this city. But we still don’t believe it’s lost.Marushka Shah, resident of Carmichael Road
Faced with the prospect of losing their open space, residents of Altamount Road, Peddar Road and Carmichael Road got together, ran pillar to post and finally managed to secure a win. After many meetings held and letter sent to the BMC commissioner, local corporators and MLAs, the civic body has now budged from their stand and has once again reserved the plot for a children’s park. But the fight hasn’t been easy.
The citizens of South Mumbai got together, we met once every week. We made several representations to the BMC, Chief Minister, town planning authorities and chief engineers. We took out time to follow up regularly. Now we have to follow this through to make sure a children’s garden actually comes up here.Rohan Lamba, resident
How did the Controversy Begin?
Despite being allocated as a children’s park in the BMC’s 1991 Development Plan, the civic body lost the plot after they allegedly failed to make the full payment to the owner within the time-frame agreed upon. This prompted the plot owners to seek complete control over the real estate.
“The moment the time-frame was over, the owner asked for the plot back. To make his own case stronger, he went to the Supreme Court (SC) and with the limited information that was made available at that time, he managed to get the SC to rule that the BMC cannot trouble an individual and if the BMC is at fault, how can he be penalised for it? This was in 2007. The owner then tried to sell the plot but couldn’t due to the conflict. The court then took over the plot,” said Captain Ashok Batra, chairman of the Altamount Road Residents' Association, who has been actively involved in the fight.
The BMC’s decision to restore the status of the plot has been welcomed by over 8,000 families who live in the surrounding areas and stand to benefit from a park. Twelve-year-old Vivaan, for instance, enjoys watching the birds that have become the inhabitants of the plot.
I would want the trees to remain here as this will continue to provide a home to the birds. It will also be nice to have a small playground here because we have no other space to cycle or play football.Vivaan Shah, resident
Vivaan’s concern is shared by all the children and their parents living in the area.
For 70-year-old Gita Shah, who has been living at Gulistan, overlooking the plot for 48 years now, and watched South Mumbai turn into a concrete jungle before her eyes, this is a welcome move.
We couldn’t enjoy a park here all our lives, neither could our children but if they can at least build one now, we can enjoy it in our senior citizen years.Gita Shah, resident
Mumbai has approximately 3,525 hectares area of public open spaces. These include recreational grounds in private layouts, Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Aarey Colony, among others. But with no specific authority appointed to take decisions on all public open spaces, many such spots are often overlooked.
In Mumbai’s case, the planning of holistic urbanisation, like parks and open spaces, is very haphazard and one of the reasons for this is that we have multiple planning authorities. There is the MMRDA, the BMC and the state government interfering all the time. It is time that we have a single authority with an elected mayor who takes a call on how the city is planned.Sayli Mankikar, Research Fellow, Observer Research Foundation
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