Mumbai: Bandra residents battle to reclaim playground

Mumbai: Bandra residents battle to reclaim playground

The plot had been earmarked a playground since 1981The plot had been earmarked a playground since 1981

Yet another open space in the city is in danger of being gobbled up by real estate, and this time around, it’s one acre of prime property just off Carter Road in Bandra West. The plot, with an estimated value of Rs 100 crore, has been earmarked in the Development Plan (DP) as a playground since 1981. But locals were surprised when it was suddenly changed to a potential slum rehabilitation zone in the controversial draft DP 2034, which was published in 2015.

Even as residents allege that this is a ploy to take over the open space for construction, Dr Akhtar Hasan Rizvi, founder of Rizvi Builders, claims that the plot is his property and was never meant for a playground. The plot is located on Sherli Rajan Road, right opposite Rizvi Springfield High School, where Dr Rizvi is a trustee. The land is currently being used a parking lot for school buses.
The citizens have won their first battle — they managed to get the plot listed as a playground (PG) again. However, the war is yet to be won. When mid-day visited the plot yesterday, it had been marked with a signboard belonging to the Rizvi Education. Inside, it was filled with refuse and scrap.

RTI activist Anil Joseph, chairperson of the Perry Road residents Association — who took the initiative of bringing together all the key political representatives of the area and the resident bodies — said that playgrounds are vital for a city starved for open spaces.

Anthony D’souza, secretary of the St Anne’s Sherli Residents’ Association, said, “With the help of the local MLA Ashish Shelar, we managed to have the plot rectified to its original status, but nothing seems to have changed on the ground level. The plot looks like anything but a playground.”

MP Poonam Mahajan confirmed that she had received complaints from local residents and activists to ensure that the status of the PG plot is not compromised. “I am in the process of shooting off complaint letters to the municipal commissioner and the H-West ward officer, to ensure that first and foremost, the rubbish is cleared out and so are the illegally parked school buses. Our next step will be to construct and maintain the playground.”

BMC councilor Swap-na Mahatre, too, asserted that if there is any private encroachment on a plot reserved for a playground, the government can reclaim the same and use it for the purpose it has been demarked.

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