RWITC Lease Renewal: No construction; only theme park at Race Course land

Broader vision to link it with coastal garden through a subway, says Chahal

geetanjali

Geetanjali Minhas | January 19, 2024 | Mumbai


#Mumbai   #BMC   #urban governance   #Chahal  


After an open house meeting with members of Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) Thursday, Mumbai's municipal commissioner and administrator, I S Chahal, has said that  no construction will take place on 120 acres of land proposed to be given to BMC and Maharashtra government.

Issuing a statement, the municipal commissioner said that BMC assured hundreds of members present at the open house that there shall be no construction happening on 120 acres of land proposed to be given to BMC/GoM except creation of public garden/ theme park and connecting it with 175 acre coastal garden through a subway.

Chahal addressed queries and concerns of managing committee where all members of RWITC were invited for an open session regarding renewal of lease of RWITC along with handing over of 120 acres of RWITC land to BMC/Government of Maharashtra for creation of public garden / theme park.

In his statement, he said, “The open house started at 5.00 pm with a detailed power point presentation by him on the proposed understanding between BMC/GoM and RWITC as per the meeting between Hon’ble CM and RWITC committee members held on 6th December 2023. A copy of the Minutes of the said meeting were circulated to all RWITC member along with the agenda of open house. The Municipal Commissioner answered all questions with detailed clarifications raised by members till the last question was answered around 8.00 pm. Various aspersions/ doubts in the minds of members of RWITC were fully clarified. It was an extremely successful open house session which was conducted in a very cordial atmosphere.

“MC assured hundreds of members present that there shall be no construction happening on 120 acres of land proposed to be given to BMC / Government of Maharashtra except creation of public garden/ theme park and connecting it with 175 acre coastal garden through a subway. This was deeply appreciated by members of RWITC who were present there. This will be followed by voting in extraordinary AGM in last week of January 2024,” said Chahal.

The BMC had leased 227 acres to the RWITC, which manages the race course, for 99 years in 1914. The lease expired in 2013. Besides, the racing licence has to be renewed every year. The Mahalaxmi Race Course, a Grade II Heritage site with stables, was set up on this land parcel. As per land records, the BMC owns around one-third of the land parcel and the balance is owned by the state government.

The state government plans to acquire 120 acres of leased land to the RWITC for a theme park and remaining 91 acres of RWITC for running the race course operations on lease for 30 years, till 2053. It also proposes to rehabilitate slums through SRA and spend Rs 100 crores to build a modern clubhouse and stables.

Reportedly on the request of RWITC president, SR Sanas, chief minister Eknath Shinde agreed to shift the existing slum as claimed by RWITC to be encroached structures inside the race course to neighbouring Slum Rehabilitation Projects (SRA). The slum survey and shifting will be done by the BMC in coordination with SRA and the state government. RWITC will not have to bear any costs for same.

The move however has been contentious and resented by its members for conditional renewal of lease and also taking away 120 acres land for creating green space that is already green. Citizens are opposing it as they feel that the racecourse is not only an open space with hundreds of old trees but also daily frequented by Mumbaikars for walking, jogging, yoga, football, cricket, horse riding and relaxing. They feel its concretisation will deprive the city of green lungs.     

Chahal however has said that BMC has a broader vision and aims to create a sprawling green public space by linking the new park with the Coastal Road garden via a subway.

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