Mumbai: Activists Skeptical About Central Park At Mahalaxmi Racecourse; Amateur Riding Club Voices Concerns

Mumbai: Activists Skeptical About Central Park At Mahalaxmi Racecourse; Amateur Riding Club Voices Concerns

"We are very clear that not one brick should be laid at our racecourse. Let them plant trees and shrubs without obstructing the view of the racecourse. But, no structure will be permitted"

S BalakrishnanUpdated: Saturday, February 03, 2024, 07:41 PM IST
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Mahalaxmi Racecourse | File

Municipal Commissioner and administrator I.S. Chahal's proposal to have a central park at the Mahalaxmi racecourse on the lines of the New York Central Park and the Hyde Park in London is being greeted with scepticism by  activists who have started the Save Mumbai  Racecourse campaign. 

Said Dr Nilesh Baxi, "We do not know if there is a genuine change of heart on the part of Mr Chahal or not. This is because in the past he had talked about a "theme park" without giving any details making the whole thing look like  a hide park. He had also suggested installation of ferris wheel, an amusement park etc and when people pointed out that these projects will block the view of the racecourse he changed his proposal to a garden sunk eight feet below the surface. But we pointed out that he will be ending up with a pool because the area is known for waterlogging several months in a year."

"Not one brick should be laid at our racecourse"

Dr Baxi said the open land of the racecourse, which was 74.3 acres, cannot be compared with New York Central Park with 851 acres and Hyde Park with 343 acres. Even these parks have certain structures. "We are very clear that not one brick should be laid at our racecourse. Let them plant trees and shrubs without obstructing the view of the racecourse. But, no structure will be permitted," he added. He also opposed Mr Chahal's proposal to link the park promised to be set up along the coastal road with the proposed racecourse central park. He warned that this would only complicate the situation at the ground level.

Members of the Amateur Riding Club (ARC), who have been totally ignored by the  BMC in its plans for the racecourse, on Saturday called on Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Malabar Hill MLA of the BJP and minister for skill development and voiced their concerns about the proposed "development" of the racecourse. Purshottam Singi, Ramkumar Dubey, Hemang Goradia, Palak Mehta and Beniwal of ARC met Mr Lodha. Though the minister did not formally commit himself to anything, he gave a patient hearing to the delegation, Mr Singi said.

Shyam Mehta, president of the Amateur Riders’ Club (ARC), had earlier observed that  “It is unfortunate that despite being fully aware that the ARC has been in use and occupation of the racecourse for decades and has produced Olympic and Asian Games riders and gold medallists and has over 200 horses in the racecourse and 1,400 members, the government / BMC has not deemed it fit to take us into confidence,” he said. He had warned of legal action if the interests of the ARC are not protected in any scheme of things for the racecourse.

The Eknath Shinde government appears to have rethought its earlier proposal to have a "theme park" following intense resistance from green activists who form a substantial chunk of the electorate in south Mumbai and other areas. The general perception was that the BMC's proposal was a ploy to help two leading builders of Mumbai who were eyeing the super prime property that the racecourse is. 

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