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Mumbaikars urge BMC to Improve the State of Public Parks and Make it Accessible to All

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Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic, a collective of citizens of Mumbai has submitted recommendations generated from an online public consultation to BMC officials to improve the condition of Mumbai’s parks and gardens. As part of the consultation, citizens of Mumbai shared their solutions, grievances and experiences to better the city’s public parks. The consultation was led by Civis, a non profit tech platform that mobilises citizens to contribute towards policy developments) and Waatavaran, a non profit working across Maharashtra to build climate resilience through research, engagement and policy advocacy.
When asked about the main problems that citizens faced with the city’s parks, what restricted their access and which localities in Mumbai needed more parks, they highlighted issues related to poor washroom facilities, poorly maintained running paths, limited open timings and seating space as some of the key challenges. In addition to these, poor lighting, choked entrances, inaccessibility for specially-abled people were some of the other issues that were highlighted by Mumbaikars. Citizens indicated that neighbourhoods of Andheri, Jogeshwari, Vile Parle, Sion, Parel, Dadar, Chembur, Ghatkopar, Kurla and Powai (K-east,west, L, M and N wards) certainly lacked enough green spaces and urban parks.
Last week two members from the collective met with BMC superintendent of gardens, Jitendra Pardeshi and Ashok Yamgar, Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Environment) to present the recommendations of this public consultation. They received the report favourably with the commitment to take people’s inputs towards improving the city’s parks. Mr Pardeshi also forwarded the report to the respective deputy superintendent of gardens in the priority neighbourhoods. The collective looks forward to collaborating with the BMC in the near future towards protecting and improving Mumbai’s green spaces for the benefit of all citizens.
Speaking about the insights gathered from the public consultation, Antaraa Vasudev, Founder of Civis, said “Most respondents expressed the need for the parks to be better maintained highlighting the infrastructural gaps. There was a strong demand for more parks and equitable distribution across the city. Investing in human resources for better security and cleanliness; introducing wider variety of indigenous plant species; dedicated parks, or designated areas within parks to cater to the needs of different groups like children, senior citizens, youth and pet owners; playgrounds and sports facilities; consulting urban space design experts and converting unused lands to public green spaces were some of the other demands from the citizens that have been submitted to the officials.”
In the last 40 years, Mumbai has lost around 60% of its green cover, and is now left with just 13% green cover. Studies have shown that 68 of the city’s 88 wards lost significant amount of green cover in the last two decades. Some of the worst hit areas were Goregaon, which witnessed reduction of green spaces from 62.5% in 2001 to 17% in 2011 followed by Andheri West and Malad.
Speaking about the significance of green spaces, Bhagwan Kesbhat, Founder of Waatavaran Foundation said, “Undergoing most significant rapid growth in the country, the city is witnessing an increase in air pollution, carbon emissions, water scarcity and poor public infrastructure. A recent report by WHO titled ‘Urban Green Spaces and Health’, maintains that access to green spaces is essential for public health and the overall well-being of people. With the Covid-19 pandemic and current social distancing guidelines, open spaces have become even more crucial. If the trend of shrinking green spaces continues for the next 10 years, it will not only destroy the local environment, but also human health, by increasing urban temperatures, chances of flooding and air pollution.”
The BMC has devised an Open Space Policy and in its Development Plan (2014-2034) for the city and promised 6.13 square metres of open space per person including forests and mangroves, along with a commitment to create 100 new parks. Improving urban open spaces with accessibility features and design are a part of sustainable growth as defined by the United Nations. Besides inclusive and participatory open spaces, public parks should be given as much relevance and priority as industrial and office spaces, making Mumbai a city that is modern and sustainable where economic growth and preservation of green spaces go together.
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