Open spaces: Looking back, moving ahead
Shawan Sen TNN
Mumbai: Fighting for open spaces has been one of the major hurdles in the city. With little cooperation from the civic body and no political will, often citizens are dissuaded from protecting the green lungs of the city. To boost the morale of citizens, NGO Citispace, which has been fighting for the city’s open spaces for over a decade now, has highlighted the struggle of ordinary citizens protecting public spaces in the 24 city wards in the two-day exhibition, Breathing Spaces.
Neera Punj of Citispace said, “There is no point blaming and just talking about the civic body and its inability to protect the city’s public spaces. It is time that we talk about what has been achieved by the citizens in each ward of the city. A lot can be done when people come together and work for what they own. We at Citispace have all the data of open spaces in the city. We are here to hold the hands through the entire process.”
Several cases where victory has been achieved – the public space is restored – has been highlighted in the huge canvasses set up at the Mahalaxmi Race Course. The canvasses throw up the case history, timeline, and the open space details of each ward. For instance, in A-ward (Colaba), Citispace speaks about the hardships faced by the residents of the First Pasta Lane in Colaba in restoring a recreation ground which was being used as a kitchen for the eatery Kailash Parbat. Similarly, several inspiring stories of citizens’ groups protecting the green lungs have been highlighted in the exhibition.
Nayana Kathpalia, co-convener of Citispace, said, “It is possible to protect open spaces if locals come out and fight for it. We have carried out an extensive survey of the open spaces in the city. It was an arduous task as the civic body did not have an exhaustive list of open spaces. We obtained few data from the BMC and then cross-checked with our architects going to the field.”