Riders, walkers upset by BMC’s proposed theme park at Mahalaxmi Racecourse | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Riders, walkers upset by BMC’s proposed theme park at Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Jan 09, 2024 07:44 AM IST

Concerns are rising among users of the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai as the BMC plans to take over 120 acres for a proposed theme park. Users fear that activities such as walking, running, yoga, and horse riding will be halted if the park is built. The racecourse is currently open to the public and is used by schools, fitness groups, and equestrian clubs.

MUMBAI: When daylight breaks over the Mahalaxmi Racecourse, the place comes alive. Hundreds of people arrive to stretch, walk, run and do yoga even as stable hands take the horses for a walk or a sprint around the ground. The ground staff keep an eye on all the activities to make sure one does not impede another, blocking walkers whenever horses are galloping past. By 9 am, the racecourse empties out.

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All these people fear that the activities will come to a halt forever once the BMC takes over 120 acres for its proposed theme park from the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC). A clubhouse and stables are proposed to be built on the 91-acre site proposed for RWITC, but there is no clarity if the above-mentioned activities will also be shifted here.

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In the words of an equestrian from the Amateur Riders’ Club (ARC), the racecourse is misunderstood as an “elitist location” when it is, in fact, open to one and all. Rèa Narwekar, a member of ARC, said that she and six of her schoolmates from the Aditya Birla World Academy, took horse-riding lessons twice a week at the racecourse. “There are students from other schools as well,” she said. “With the BMC’s plan for a theme park, I am not sure if we will be able to continue with our horse riding lessons.”

Makarand Narwekar, former BJP corporator and Rea’s father, said the Amateur Riders’ Club was the only facility which would go, adding that there was no clarity, as there would be no land available. “This is a piece of city heritage, which will be over and done with,” he said. “There are international schools in South Mumbai which offer horse-riding as a course to students. My daughter and her schoolmates have enrolled. They practise at the racecourse on those 120 acres.”

Among other activities, walkers and joggers’ groups, yoga, physical exercises and exhibitions too are organised on this ground. Ramkumar Dubey, vice-president of the Joggers and Walkers Society (JAWS), said that the committee held a meeting on Sunday, as there was apprehension about losing the open space. “We go there to improve our health,” he said. “We organise breakfast, elections, take up social causes and help during crises. We provide water and newspapers. There are sporting activities held during public holidays.” Dubey said JAWS had published a pamphlet in the past on the same issue and would revisit it.

Pandurang Shinde, a JAWS member, said he had been going to the racecourse from his house in Lower Parel for 36 years. “I have been going for walks and yoga and I have benefited immensely,” he said. “To date, I have never taken medicines, not even for a cold or cough. I never fall ill.” Shinde said he was opposed to the idea of a theme park, as it would not benefit the public.

When contacted, the horse owners and committee members of RWITC said they did not want to comment at this stage. “The media attention on the proposed understanding between RWITC and the state has created an uproar,” said Vivek Jain, former chairman, RWITC. “It’s best to hold one’s horses till there is more clarity from the club and not pass judgement till the facts emerge.”

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