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The burden on Mumbai’s infrastructure has become increasingly evident over the last few years, with the city witnessing floods and worsening traffic jams. With the increasing number of high-rises, the residents have been demanding good infrastructure for better living. As a result, there were high expectations from the Mumbai Development Plan (DP) 2034, as this would be the blueprint for the future development of the city.
Mumbai Development Plan to boost housing construction
The floor space index (FSI) under the DP for commercial properties, has been raised up to five and for residential projects, it has been increased up to three. Earlier it was 1.33 across commercial and residential projects. For suburbs, the new FSI will be up to 2.5 for residential projects, which was earlier at two and five for commercial properties. According to Mayur Shah, managing director, Marathon Group and president, CREDAI-MCHI, “The focus on creation of commercial structures, will help decongest and decentralise the present central business districts (CBDs). This will promote the walk-to-work culture in the city. By opening up the salt pan lands for construction, the government has taken a crucial decision, for creating more land bank for housing, in the space-starved city. Increased FSI for residential and commercial buildings, will also lead a greater number of dwellings in the city.”
Mumbai Development Plan may worsen the burden on infrastructure
However, the plan does not seem to have focused on creating better amenities, for providing a better standard of life to Mumbaikars. Experts point out that the plan does not even match the standards for public amenities, prescribed nationally. Rajkumar Sharma, president of the Advanced Locality Management and Networking Action Committee (ALMANAC) is of the view that, “We are already sitting on a ticking time bomb, due to the dumping grounds. There is no additional space for the city to expand and handle the increasing population. There is water scarcity, the air is polluted and garbage segregation is still in its infancy. Due to increased traffic, a majority of the roads are congested and every day, train commuters are dying due to overcrowding.”
With the relaxing of the FSI norms, the city will become more crowded and a worse space to live, complains Sulaiman Bhimani, a civic activist. “The drainage system, which we inherited from the British, has not yet been upgraded. There is no mention about how drainage will be provided for new buildings. Will new buildings’ sewer lines be merely connected to the old British-era drainage?” he questions. The new Development Plan lacks clarity and will make Mumbai flood-prone, says Bhimani. “They should have visited Chandigarh and studied how it was planned and how to incorporate the same in the outskirts of Mumbai, to make Mumbai less crowded,” he maintains. Moreover, there is also a fear that the Development Plan may cause Mumbai to lose the little green cover that is left.
What should be done, for effective implementation of Mumbai’s DP
According to reports, the civic body executed only 18 per cent of the 1961 Development Plan and 33 per cent, vis-à-vis the 1991 DP. Jitendra Gupta, a public infrastructure activist, laments the lack of planning program or vision, for the implementation of the Development Plan. “The authorities wait till a development/redevelopment project for an individual plot is proposed. This creates a pocket of open space on the road and this is in no way useful for pedestrians or traffic, as adjoining plots continue to remain in the old, blocking position on road,” he explains.
Maintain a balance between development and the ecology
Civic authorities will have to ensure that the Development Plan decongests the city, instead of creating problems from the usage of land and FSI for construction of homes. “We need to draw a line between the need for development and need to protect the environment. Essentially, we need to balance both,” says Niranjan Hiranandani, national president, NAREDCO. “The DP has opened up salt pan lands, for the construction of affordable housing but it also restricts development in Aarey Colony to just the metro shed. Taking these two as examples, we can say that an effort has been made, to balance growth with Mumbai’s liveability index,” adds Hiranandani.
While other global cities have systematic town planning and uniformity in their skyline, the approach in India’s financial capital remains haphazard. There is an urgent need to accelerate the process of rehabilitation of slum dwellers, while also ensuring that skyscrapers are not allowed on small-sized plots. “Affordable housing, built on salt pan areas, should have good infrastructure in the surrounding areas. The focus should be more on well-maintained roads. Green zones should be promoted, to control pollution,” says Amit Wadhwani, director, Sai Estate Consultants.
Monitoring on-ground implementation
The government has not formed any guidelines, akin to Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) projects, where the builders have to mandatorily provide a certain minimum space in the newly-developed project. This has resulted in builders not passing on the complete benefits of FSI increase, to the stakeholders of redevelopment projects. For example, if the residents’ welfare association is strong, they are able to bargain for a better deal that offers 55 per cent more space, as seen in case of developments in Ghatkopar east area. However, in other areas like Mulund, builders have given hardly 30 per cent increase over the old space occupied by tenants. It is hence, the government’s responsibility, to ensure that the benefits of the DP reaches all the stakeholders, through proper implementation and monitoring of the different schemes.
“Earlier when the DPs were approved, there was no monitoring done on the ground. So, the first and foremost step, should be to form a full-fledged monitoring body, to ensure effective implementation,” concludes DM Sukthankar, former secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, government of India and former municipal commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.