2011 - 2012
Erstwhile constituents of NAGAR now amalgamated:
Clean Air (CA); CitiSpace (CS); Clean Sweep Forum (CSF)
Recreation Grounds, Playgrounds, Parks and Gardens
- CS’s SRA Writ Petition 1152 of 2002 continued in the Bombay High Court with the Stay Order of 2002 still holding. This Order bans SRA Schemes on Reserved Open Spaces. CS’s Coordinator, scrutinized and gave recommendations, together with the Convenor and Co-convenor, to ten proposed SRA Schemes that came up for hearing in the Court seeking the Court’s approval. The recommendations were made after a thorough examination of the DP with respect to the proposed SRA layout and a site inspection as well as a satellite overlay.
- Inspection of SRA sites that CS had given recommendations to in the past, in keeping with the High Court Order were systematically carried out by a student surveyor under the guidance of the Coordinator. This was done to ensure that Court Orders were being duly followed in the execution of the SRA Scheme.
- CS also interacted with and guided residents from various parts of Mumbai who were facing issues with SRA projects and were falsely given to believe that their projects were stuck due to the High Court Order for Writ Petition No. 1152 of 2002.
Two such cases are:
- An old chawl in Andheri (E) that had gone in for re-development and therefore not under SRA.
- An SRA proposal that was re-opened after more than a decade and which was later found to be falling under the High Court Order for Writ Petition No. 1152 of 2002 – CS informed the persons of this SRA proposal that this was matter for the SRA and the High Court to sort out.
- CS members discussed with its lawyers the possibility of protection all Reserved Open Spaces in Greater Mumbai by clubbing the interim Bombay HC Order of W.P.1152 of 2002 and the Order banning swimming pools and Sports Complexes on PGs to protect any type of construction on these plots.
Survey on Reserved Open Spaces
- Local Individuals and organizations were assisted by CS in their struggles to protect their neighbourhood open spaces. Besides regular help in the form of helping with RTIs, meeting local and central authorities as the need may be and guiding them with rules and regulations, etc. to ensure that Reserved Open Space are well maintained, CS held 2 workshops with its members. At these a handout explaining the various issues related to protecting the city’s Open Spaces were distributed and several hours of interactive discussions with local members, answering their queries and strategizing on a way forward. The first such workshop was at Five Gardens, Parsi Colony, Dadar on 17 Sep 2011 and a second member workshop at St. Paul’s Church Hall at Parel, F/south on 5 Nov 2011.
- RTIs and letters to appropriate authorities were sent by CS with regards to 51 purchase notices received by the MCGM for plots that are reserved as open spaces in the DP. The ownership and purchase notice details were collated by CS for approaching the MCGM to ensure that these lands were purchased and made available to the public for the purpose for which they had been designated.
- CS responded to a newspaper article (Hindustan Times 13.10.11) – ‘Rs. 85 crore funds for open spaces may lapse’. CS wrote to the Additional Municipal Commissioner, Mr. Aseem Gupta, stressing the need for MCGM to use the crores of funds available for Open Spaces to secure and maintain these and to prevent them from being further depleted. And also to ensure that the Rs. 85 crore fund for open spaces does not lapse and action is taking well before the Code of Conduct for Municipal Elections sets in.
- CS responded to a newspaper article (Mid-Day 22.03.12) – ‘Mr. Shewale, Improvements’ Committee Chairman asks for responses to MCGM’s Budget’. CS reiterated that it was the obligatory duty of the MCGM to – a) Provide and maintain Public Hospitals & Dispensaries and carry out other measures necessary for Public Medical Relief, besides promoting Public Health in general; b) Provide for and maintain Urban Forestry, protect the Environment and promote Ecological Aspects; and c) The Open Spaces act as a reservoir for maintaining good health and protecting the environment and are aptly called the ‘lungs of the city’.
- The Government of Maharashtra and the MCGM revised the Caretaker Policy, which had a stay on it due to the efforts of CS since 2007. The Policy proposed to hand over reserved public open spaces to private caregivers while allowing them to construct Clubs with exclusive and expensive memberships on 25% of the plot. CS re-visited the policy and scrutinized the new draft as soon as it was brought into the public domain in an effort to preserve Mumbai’s remaining few open spaces.
- CS responded to MCGM’s ‘Proposed Policy for Development of Plots reserved for Public Purposes such as Gymnasiums/Gymkhanas, Clubs, Stadiums, Swimming-pools, Recreation Grounds, Playgrounds, Gardens and Parks’ that is primarily aimed at creating private and commercial interests on Reserved Public Open Spaces.
- CS followed up the response to this detrimental Proposed Policy for Open Spaces of the MCGM by writing to the Chief Minister of Government of Maharashtra, the Secretary (Environment), Government of Maharashtra and MPs and MLAs of Greater Mumbai. While Shri Prithviraj Chavan, the Chief Minister and Ms. Valsa Nair, the Secretary (Environment) have supported CS’s Vision for Public Open Spaces in Greater Mumbai, several MPs and MLAs too had committed positively to protect them.
- CS attended a hearing called by MCGM on its ‘Proposed Policy for Development of Plots reserved for Public Purposes such as Gymnasiums/Gymkhanas, Clubs, Stadiums, Swimming-pools, Recreation Grounds, Playgrounds, Gardens and Parks’ that was primarily aimed at creating private and commercial interests on Reserved Public Open Spaces, held on 20th October 2011. For this, CS networked extensively with its own members and with other organizations that had sent in their suggestions/objections to this proposed policy, the result was a very good and informed turn out for all the hearings held over 3 days by the MCGM, in which all attendees raised pertinent questions to the MCGM on the proposed policy,
The main points stressed by all organizations and reiterated by CS were that there is no reason what-so-ever for the MCGM or any other authority that is responsible for looking after the City’s Reserved Open Spaces to create private and/or commercial interests on these Public Spaces. Besides, given Mumbai’s geographical and topographical status, no construction/concretization activity should be allowed on any open spaces under any circumstances.
Post the hearing; CS met the Additional Municipal Commissioner, Mr. Aseem Gupta, along with Mr. D.M. Sukthankar (Retd. IAS). After discussions it was decided to draft recommendations to the Development Control Rules of Greater Mumbai to protect misuse of Reserved Public Open Spaces. These recommendations were sent to the Government of Maharashtra, Urban Development Department and MCGM accordingly. CS’s recommendations were also forwarded to Mr. Shewale, Improvements’ Committee Chairman.
Phase II of CS’s survey of Reserved Open Spaces of Greater Mumbai continued under Coordinator Parul Kumtha’s guidance. While most of the Island City and Eastern Suburbs were surveyed and were in the process of being collated, work was underway on the surveys of Reserved Open Spaces in the Western Suburbs. Surveys from Phase I & II were disseminated from time to time as asked for by the concerned citizens and CS members.
Interactions with politicians, research organizations & activist groups regarding proposed regulations / development plan visions
- CS made a presentation of its views on the status of Reserved Open Spaces in Greater Mumbai with strategies on a way forward at seminars and workshops organized on:
a. 30 April 2011 for AGNI’s 12th anniversary meet
b. 7th May 2011 at meet by Mumbai Nagrik Vikas Manch
The presentations were followed by discussion and dialogue with individuals and organizations working towards the same goals
- On 21 June 2011, CS met and conferred with Shri Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, with specific focus on the proposal to pass a revised version of the Caretaker Policy on Reserved Open Spaces that will lead towards privatization of the same. Shri Thackeray was eager to meet and learn more about CS’s views and deliberate with MCGM & GoM officials as also to spread awareness on this issue amongst his cadre.
- CS was constantly in discussion and deliberation with Urban Design Research Institute giving special emphasis on suggestions/objections that could be incorporated into the revised Development Plan for Greater Mumbai, which is being revised.
- CS’s Convenor addressed and enthused young children from the NGO Akanksha Foundation that works with street children with the vision to one day equip them with the education, skills and character they need to lead empowered lives. Some of these children showed concern for an Open Space in their area that used to serve as a playground for them and which is being threatened by construction activity. CS met them in order to help them protect this space.
- CS participated in the Vision Mumbai drawn up and presented by Ms. Valsa Nair Singh, Secretary (Environment), Government of Maharashtra before Shri Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister, Government of Maharashtra. The main points in the presentation were based on inputs given by CS in several joint meetings regarding Greater Mumbai’s Open Spaces.
- CS met with the documentary filmmaker Mr. Lalit Vachani who is affiliated with the Max Planck institute at Goettingen in Germany to give inputs to his current research: ‘A visual ethnography of public spaces and maidans, with an initial focus on Shivaji Park’. It was a part of a broader project on urban aspirations in Mumbai.
- CS’s Coordinator addressed the Environment Mela held by NGO ‘SPROUTS’ at Mahim Nature Park on 4 December 2011 at Mahim Nature Park, Dharavi. The presentation was attended by nature enthusiasts from all walks of life and all ages.
- A Public Notification about the public swimming pool at Ghatkopar that asked for tenders to carry out catering work for wedding receptions in the maidan in the same plot was inquired into by making an RTI application. CS’s objections were based on the following:
- The GR stating that Recreational and Playgrounds of area more 1 Hectare can be converted to TDZ i.e. about 112 plots measuring 247 hectares (618 acres or 28 times Oval Maidan)
- When this provision was available for No Development Zones (NDZ), why was the Government looking at using reserved public spaces such as parks/gardens/ recreation grounds/private gardens/private recreation.
- CS rallied with Members of Parliament to garner support against such a detrimental GR. The MPs were urged to take the matter up with the Chief Minister of the Government of Maharashtra, Mr. Ashok Chavan and other higher authorities, in the interest of the city’s open spaces.
- A proposal to add a Muslim Cemetery in the NDZ skirting Aarey Milk Colony and adjoining the Western Express Highway to an area which already has a Hindu and a Christian Cemetery was deemed as acceptable since such uses are permitted in the DCRs on NDZ.
- Several proposals to acquire private plots for Open Spaces or D.P. Roads were acknowledged and duly filed for future reference.
- CS followed up on the Monthly General Meeting of the MCGM held on 15th Sept 2011, on the Resolutions of the Improvement Committee, No. 17 i.e. cancelling allocation of specific plot of land in K/west ward reserved for recreation ground and taking possession of said plot of land. An RTI was filed for the details of this plot and it was sourced that this is a plot that was formerly given on Caretaker Basis to Ronson’s Foundation. This was seen as a positive step and was followed up by sharing the information with local members.
Agencification of Solid Waste Management
- Participation in the Young Expressions Programme – “My City My Park”
CS participated in this programme by sending in a power point presentation outlining the issues of green spaces in the city.
- Students of Tata Institute Social Sciences course on Habitat Studies met with the CS Coordinator to learn about the various policies and authorities governing Reserved Open Spaces in Greater Mumbai.
- In addition, prior to the elections, CS contacted elected representatives to take up the cause of Reserved Open Spaces and make it a part of their manifesto and participated in talks conducted by AGNI, Loksatta on this issue.
CSF decided to undertake a study titled “Solid Waste Management – an Alternative Paradigm”, to emphasize on “Agencification’ as the most effective alternative. This study was done by the professors of the IIT-Bombay. Apart from the IIT professors, early partners were the All India Institute of Local Self-government (AIILSG) and the Urban Design and Research institute (UDRI). Dr. Rakesh Kumar, Director and Head, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) was also a firm and committed partner.