Justifying the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) plans to develop part of Aarey Colony in Goregaon into a commercial hub, Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte on Thursday said it was impossible to ensure that the large green open space would not be encroached upon and “converted into another Dharavi” by 2034. The commissioner was addressing a group of citizen activists on the city’s new draft Development Plan (DP) at the Press Club.
Kunte said, “Most public bodies have been poor at estate management. Aarey is tagged as a ‘no development zone’ but land has been lost to encroachments. However, this tag also doesn’t mean that there cannot be any development in the area. Can anyone give us a guarantee that it will not turn into another Dharavi with the increasing encroachment? We are only trying to safeguard the given land.” The commissioner maintained his stand despite citizens pointing out that it was the BMC’s responsibility to safeguard open spaces and ensure there is no encroachment.
In the Development Plan of 1991, Aarey Milk Colony has been marked as a ‘no development zone’, but DP 2034 has pegged the large green space as a potential economic centre for suburban Mumbai. BMC proposes development on 1,009 hectares, leaving less than 300 hectares of the green cover intact. Activists have criticised the BMC’s plan of sacrificing the city’s green lungs for a man-made central park, theme park, botanical garden and other activities including educational campuses and a bus corridor.
“When IIT-B was given land in Powai, it would also have been a pristine cover but had we not allotted the land, Mumbai would have never got an IIT. The city has already lost a lot of institutions to other metros because of scarcity of land,” Kunte added. The commissioner stated his expectation that with the growth of cultural amenities, there will be increased participation from stakeholders, who would strive harder to preserve Aarey. “We can expect it to be developed as a Hyde park in London or any other international park,” he said.