The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is in the final stages of approving a revamp plan for Parel’s Nare Park, which will include the construction of a state-of-the art sports complex and a swimming pool at the 2.5-acre recreation ground in the heart of the erstwhile textile mill neighbourhood.
The renovation plan, recognised as the brainchild of local Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) MLA Bala Nandgaonkar, has been mired in controversy for over two years as public open spaces activists and the MNS’ political rivals, the Shiv Sena, have vehemently opposed the plan.
Last year, while inaugurating a major rainwater harvesting project at the park, MNS president Raj Thackeray had also laid the foundation stone for the park’s revamp project, raking up a controversy with the Shiv Sena-led civic body as requisite permissions for the execution were yet to be acquired.
Following this, a formal proposal was sent to the corporation for consideration. Permissions for the project are likely to be approved by the municipal commissioner before the election code of conduct sets in.
“We hope to receive the final nod for the project soon. We have already received most of the no-objection certificates from various departments, including the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee,” Nandgaonkar said.
The revamp proposal entails the demolition of the existing structure and construction of a ground-plus-one storeyed structure in its place. Multiple sports and allied facilities for indoor games and Yoga, a bowling alley and a gymnasium have been proposed. An amphitheatre outside the structure has also been proposed to create a space for cultural events, along with the construction of an open-to-sky swimming pool.
The renovations were earlier to be carried out through the MLA funds of Nandgaonkar, however, the civic development plan department noted that this was not possible since the BMC’s controversial open spaces caretaker/ adoption policy had been stayed till guidelines were approved. In the meantime, use of MP/ MLA funds for such purposes were prohibited and the construction of a welfare centre on the plot was also disallowed.
The Maidan Bachao Samiti, an organisation that claims to be apolitical, has also opposed the project claiming the expensive revamp will reduce the amount of open space in the neighbourhood and cater to the new wealthy demographics of the upcoming Parel area.
Municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte said, “The project has come to us for approval and it is under consideration.”
“In the absence of a policy, we are allowing development of public open spaces on the condition that ownership of the land remains with the BMC. This way, we do not have to deal with the problem of private bodies or local trusts usurping the land at a later stage and difficulty in retrieving ownership of these plots. Hence, only execution of developmental works on the plot will be permitted by others. Management and ownership will remain with the BMC,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner SVR Srinivas, in-charge of the civic gardens department.
After the Sena suffered a crushing defeat in the 2012 civic elections at the hands of the MNS in the Marathi-dominated wards of the Dadar-Parel constituency, the party has been eager to reclaim its stronghold. Last week, the MNS laid the foundation stone for an amusement park in Bhandup, another Shiv Sena lost bastion. The Sena opposed the ceremony claiming that necessary permissions were not sought from the Central government.