Open spaces- A necessity in Mumbai
Gardens, parks, recreational spaces and all the other terms used to describe public spaces, are and always will be an important part of community life. Be it in rural or urban areas. But the lack of such places in urban areas is an increasing concern all over the globe. Citizens of Mumbai are also feeling the pinch of the lack of green space. Mumbai is known for its grittiness and glitz but definitely not known for its greenery. It was ranked last in the Times of India-IMRB survey (2011) of eight cities. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) in its Existing Land Use survey (2012), found that the per capita open space ratio was 0.99 sq. m for a total of 1228.6 hectares open space. 0.99 sq. m is roughly the size of a big picture frame. What does this mean for the residents of Mumbai? Have the children, the working population and the elderly lost their open spaces to rapid urbanisation?
Importance of Open Spaces for Children
The reasons for why this city needs its open spaces are endless. A large number of scholarly research has been conducted as to why playing is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development of children. What are urban parents to do when the closest park is over-crowded, ill maintained and probably more than thirty minutes away with a traffic congested road blocking their way? Children end up sitting at home watching television or playing indoor games, or games on their consoles or tablets. Not just open spaces, but lack of outdoor recreational activities is alarming. Just how many weekends can a child spend in a Gaming Zone or in just another mall? What kids need is a chance to explore their surroundings through fun activities such as boating, hiking, camping, or even going on one-day picnics.
Importance of Open Spaces for Adults
Working people are known to have high stress lives, and especially in a fast-paced city like Mumbai, people might find it difficult to just pause and take a breath. That is what an open space allows them to do. It is free of charge, therapeutic refreshment of mind and body. A place that allows people to meet, relax and enjoy. Open spaces are a necessity for the elderly for enhancing social interaction and active aging. They are a source of physical, sociological and psychological benefits for older people.
It’s not that all hope is lost when it comes to open spaces. There are the big-scale Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Hanging Gardens that alleviate some of the lack of space. But at the same time the maintenance of other small-time parks and gardens is necessary. Other than the quantitative needs, qualitative needs also need to be addressed. The future development plans need to be built differently to account for the important role open spaces play in urban environments. This challenge can ultimately only be resolved through a combination of stronger municipal enforcements, civic/community participations, and private sector investments.
What we do know for sure is that open spaces and recreational activities, their availability and accessibility are factors that influence a city’s international competitiveness directly through the quality of life of its people, and indirectly through their productivity levels.