Mumbai Coronavirus: Hard to follow social distancing due to space constraints

Mumbai Coronavirus: Hard to follow social distancing due to space constraints

With the lockdown easing in Mumbai after 70 days, there has been overcrowding in green areas and public areas, which reminds us that the city has very little open space.

Mumbai, which is expected to stay shut until June 30, has experienced massive traffic jams on both Western and Eastern Express highways, as all private offices have been allowed to open up to 10 per cent strength from June 8. As public transport remained limited, thousands of office workers set off to work on their cars and their motorcycles.

Development plan (DP) 2034 states that just 3 per cent (15.37 square kilometres) of Mumbai's area contains open space. This means that 1.24 square meters (square meters) of usable open space for everyone in the city with a total area of 458,28 square meter and a population of 12 million people.

Mumbai was just ahead of Chennai (0.81 sqm per capita) and much below Delhi (21.52 sqm per capita) and Bengaluru (17.32 sqm per capita), in a recent paper by Sayli Udas Mankikar of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). In international comparisons, Mumbai also has a low per capita level than New York (26.4 m2) and London (31.68 m2).

The recommended requirement per person for open space is 10-12 sqm, says Pankaj Joshi, executive director of the Urban Design Institute. "Lack of open spaces in Mumbai is a long-term problem which is now staring at us. In such a situation, citizens must exercise self-regulation," Joshi was quoted in a report from HT Media.

Pictures of crowded public environments such as on the Marine Drive raised concerns that the spread of Covid-19 will speed up. Mankikar said that residential corporations could identify community spaces as alternatives in and around the premises. "A building's terrace or a green space near a building, community halls can be looked at by citizens who have the option. We have to also look at staggered timings at all public spaces."

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