Have you ever wondered that the land on which you are standing once might have been an open space? The big and lavish malls which you visit, the parks where you take long walks, the roads where you park your vehicles and the beaches which you create into garbage dumping zones were once open spaces or public places. The Matoshree Gymkhana on Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link road, MIG Club in Bandra (East), and Chembur Gymkhana are all built upon open spaces and moreover only members of these clubs are permitted entry in these clubs irrespective of the fact that these open spaces are meant for common man use. Parks and grounds like Jijamata Udyan, Azad Maidan and the Oval Maidan are some open spaces which are losing their sheen and moreover the existing policies are so open-ended that anyone with a vested interest can twist them to suit his or her purpose. The municipal authorities are so blind that they cannot see unauthorised structures coming up and are too deaf to hear complaints from citizen groups when a clubhouse is authorised by its ward officers on the plot earmarked for a garden.
In today’s time we have an NGO like CitiSpace working towards protecting the Public and Open Spaces such as Footpaths, Playgrounds, Recreation grounds, Parks, Gardens, Beaches, No Development Zones (NDZ) and Mangroves and advocacy of the rightful use of those spaces. CitiSpace disseminates information, mail out news and newsletters, official circulars and court orders, clarifies citizen’s rights and pinpoints what needs to be done. It networks with CBOs and resident associations, forms strategic alliances with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and trade associations as well as with authorities such as Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), the City and Suburban Collectors and the State Government. It confers awards and citations on its courageous members and associations. CitiSpace firmly believes that open spaces are a necessity and not a luxury for our physical, social and mental well being and that we cannot mortgage this future inheritance for hasty gains today.
Open spaces are basically recreational grounds, playgrounds, maidans, gardens, parks, etc. Open spaces are for the use of common man and is accessible to all for free irrespective of their caste, creed or religion. In Mumbai a total of 940 acres are reserved for open spaces in the Development Plan. There are 182 recreation grounds, playgrounds, gardens in city. There are 111 open plots in island city (Colaba to Sion), there are 54 in western suburbs and 17 in the eastern suburbs.
Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) Rules say that any plot of more than 25% occupied by slums qualifies for SRA, which means that any builder can rehabilitate the people who are staying in slums into proper houses and for doing that he gets 33% of land free for sale component which means that he gets 33% FSI on that land and he can either sell it in open market or use it for his own good.
But according to CitiSpace, in Mumbai the builders saw these open spaces as lucrative lands. These builders also share healthy relations with the politicians. And therefore they started seeing open spaces as lands for encroachment and through their networks with politicians they have been pushing encroachment on open spaces in the form of slums and when it gets more than 25% the builders push the papers for SRA which will result him in getting 33% of land for free.
Thus, CitiSpace is functioning towards making the city liveable and green by protecting it from the encroachers.