Concerns expressed at ORF roundtable in Mumbai
Geetanjali Minhas | April 10, 2010
Open spaces have been shrinking to dangerous lows in Mumbai, putting tremendous strain on resources and threatening human health.
“Only 6 percent of the total land in the city is made up of open public spaces. Out of this, 45 per cent is partially or completely encroached upon. A citizen of Mumbai gets 1.95 square metre of open space against the international standard of 11 square metre per person,” said Pankaj Joshi of Urban Development and Research Institute at a round-table on April 7th.
The civic officials are always under pressure from political parties not to remove encroachments, Joshi added.
The round table was organized here on the World Health Day by Observer Research Foundation (ORF ) , a public policy think tank. It’s theme – open and green spaces for a healthier Mumbai – was In keeping with ‘urbanization and health ‘, the World Health Organizations' theme for the year 2010.
Participants spoke passionately on environmental protection and a healthier Mumbai.
ORF Chairman Sudheendra Kulkarni said the foundation had plans to present to the local, state and central governments a concrete, action-oriented report with findings and urgings to work towards a sustainable long-term effort to promote and conserve public open spaces.
Participants lamented the grabbing of open spaces in Mumbai by the authorities and spoke of their struggles to save the same.
“We will launch the ‘Mumbai on two feet’ project in Juhu that aims to connect the area’s disparate open spaces by walking and cycling on a 5-km path over the Irla nullah,” said P.K. Das, an architect who designed the Carter Road promenade.
Valsa Nair Singh, Maharashtra environment secretary, revealed that an environmental health research initiative to study three to four polluted areas in Mumbai was under way.
“This will help us in formulating health policies for such polluted areas,” she said.
Hutokshi Rustomfram of the Save Rani Bagh Committee underlines the need to prevent the 140-year-old Byculla garden from being converted into an international zoo.
“BMC’s plans will result in the loss of 1,100 trees” she bemoaned.
However, municipal corporation’s plan of redeveloping the Veermata Jijabai Bhonsale Udyan, zoo in Mumbai, received a setback when Nair Singh said, “The government will never allow any redevelopment project that will replace an area of green cover with a concrete jungle. Any proposed redevelopment project should focus on increasing green cover instead of removing it.”
The civic body had proposed a Rs 450-crore makeover plan for the zoo in 2007. Work on phase one of the plan has already begun. In the 2010-11budget , the civic body sanctioned Rs 192 crore for it. The Central Zoo Authority and the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee have maintained that the proposal won’t be passed unless the civic body promises them that not a single tree, of the over 3,000 trees of 2,600 species, will be uprooted.
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