BKC recreation ground: Environmentalists write to CM,urges him to save open spaces

The Urban Development Department’s decision to shift reserved recreation grounds in Bandra Kurla Complex to the banks of the Mithi River has horrified environmentalists and community groups across the city.

Written by Dhanya Nair | Mumbai | Published: March 8, 2009 11:32 pm

The Urban Development Department’s decision to shift reserved recreation grounds in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) to the banks of the Mithi River has horrified environmentalists and community groups across the city. To give some teeth to their protest,they have written a letter to chief minister Ashok Chavan,hoping to save some of the open spaces.

The plans to shift the 24-hectare recreation grounds abutting the Mithi will be the ultimate environmental disaster,says the green group. “The decision is indeed a shocker. You cannot tamper with nature’s diversification. In any case,the city has a dismal amount of open spaces and this too is fast disappearing in the hands of the powerful builder lobby,” said convener of Citispace,Neera Punj.

As either banks of Mithi are considered to be a no-development zone,construction in the area cannot be carried out. Further,with the onset of monsoons,the area will become unusable as the Mithi banks get tend to get inundated. “That area is planned as an open space and should remain so. You cannot simply auction open spaces to the highest bidder in the name of commercialisation — it is taking away the citizens’ right to such spaces,” said activist Nayana Kathpalia.

The group is planning to file an RTI to check what is the status of the remaining open spaces in BKC. “Haphazard urban planning should be checked. We don’t want just concrete jungles in the city; we need to safeguard the diminishing open spaces. Hence the RTI,” said Kathpalia.

Being connected to the Mangrove belt in the area is another bone of contention. “The proposed grounds is connected to the mangrove belt,and if a commercial plot comes up here,it will reduce the mangroves,” said Rishi Aggarwal,joint secretary of the Mangrove society of India,Mumbai chapter. “The plot perhaps is constructed for public use. But the purpose will be defeated as it will be beside the Mithi,which has a very bad water supply. This could affect the water supply of the grounds too,” said Aggarwal. The Mangrove Society of India,too,plans to take up the issue with the Chief Minister.

Urban planners agree that shifting the grounds is a bad move. “Open spaces should be kept as open spaces. Shifting the grounds to the Mithi will not only be detrimental to open spaces but also to the overall environment,” said urban planner,Chandrashekhar Prabhu. “The area abutting Mithi is also a mangrove and natural habitat,so it’s all the more detrimental,” said Prabhu. He suggests studying the area properly before carrying out any development work in the area. “The area should be holistically studied. Unless you make a holistic plan of the area you cannot draw long-term feasible options,” added Prabhu.

BKC has four recreation grounds. Two of them are across from the Bharat Diamond Bourse,the third behind ICICI Bank,and the fourth near Dhirubhai Ambani School. MMRDA earns Rs 10 crores annually by renting out these grounds for trade and corporate exhibitions,film festivals and other commercial programmes. The state government last month had planned to raise money for future infrastructure projects by selling the plots meant for recreational purposes. To make up for the loss of open space,they had proposed to shift these recreation grounds to the banks of the Mithi.

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