Mumbai: BMC-Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) Sign Agreement Regarding Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Mumbai: BMC-Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) Sign Agreement Regarding Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Out of the total 211-acre plot of Racecourse, 91 acres will be handed over to the turf club. The lease will be for a period of 30 years from June 1, 2013, to May 31, 2053.

SHEFALI PARAB-PANDITUpdated: Thursday, July 04, 2024, 04:17 PM IST
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Mahalaxmi Racecourse | File

In a big-ticket move made by the Maha Yuti govenment with an eye on the upcoming assembly elections, the BMC and the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) signed an  agreement regarding the Mahalaxmi racecourse on Tuesday. This  clears the way for the ambitious plan of 'Mumbai Central Public Park'. The project includes 120 acres of land from the Racecourse and about 175 acres from the Mumbai Coastal Road. Out of the total 211-acre plot of Racecourse,  91 acres will be handed over to the turf club. The lease will be for a period of 30 years from June 1, 2013, to May 31, 2053.

The agreement was signed at the chief minister Eknath Shinde's official residence, ``Varsha" bungalow. Shinde  along with BMC commissioner Bhushan Gagrani, additional chief secretary to the CM, Dr. Iqbal Singh Chahal, RWITC managing committee members Khushroo Dhunjibhoy, Ram Shroff, Dilip Thakkar and club secretary Niranjan Singh were present. After allocating 91 acres of the racecourse land to RWITC, the remaining 120 acres will be acquired by the BMC. The civic authorities will now start the development of its ambitious Central Park project spanning approximately 300 acres and modelled after Central Parks in New York and London. However, the fate of the Amateur Riders' Club, which was an integral part of the racecourse for several decades, is still uncertain.

The state Urban Development department has directed that no business or commercial construction of any kind shall be permitted on the land reclaimed from the RWITC. The land is mandated for public use, specifically for the development of an international-standard central public park. This statement is being made in view of Shiv Sena (UBT) Aaditya Thackeray's constant claim that the land would be commercially exploited. 

"This project will expand Mumbai's green cover from the current 3,917 acres to 4,212 acres. Importantly, dedicating 300 acres to green space will significantly contribute to the city's environmental conservation efforts. The park will benefit both the citizens and tourists, providing accessibility that was previously unavailable," said a senior civic official.

The 211-acre land at Racecourse was leased to RWITC for over 100 years. After the lease expired in 2013, the BMC administration proposed to take over a part of the racecourse land to be turned into a "Central Park” as a condition of renewing the lease agreement of the land, which was in possession of the RWITC. The proposal to convert a portion of the racecourse into a large park had sparked intense controversy. Critics, including citizens and activists, had argued that the plan risked opening the door to commercial exploitation by land developers, potentially undermining one of the city's few remaining open spaces. Noted activist Zoru Bathena said the picture will become clear only after the fine print is made public.

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