Aiming for sky, city may choke and die

New policy is set to further densify Mumbai, already one of the densest cities in the world

Written by Shalini Nair | Mumbai | Published: July 21, 2014 1:15:45 am
Further changes to the policy have been proposed by the state urban development department. (Express archive) Further changes to the policy have been proposed by the state urban development department. (Express archive)

The proposed cluster redevelopment policy is set to further densify Mumbai, already one of the densest cities in the world.
While the draft notice, issued in November 2013, itself has clauses to increase the extent of construction, further changes have now been proposed by the state urban development department (UDD) that will effectively transform cluster redevelopment belts into high-density zones.

The final proposal, according to sources, states that tenants or residents owning more than 100-sqm homes will be eligible for an equivalent area post-redevelopment free of cost. The provision in the November 2013 notice required residents to pay developers the construction cost for areas in excess of 100 sqm. This new provision would mean that in return for providing the area free of cost, developers would get more incentive floor space index (FSI) in their sale component. FSI is the ratio of built-up area to the plot area. The cluster scheme allows a minimum FSI of 4, which means that on a 10,000-sqm plot, the builder can construct upward of 40,000 sqm.

Moreover, the policy has been tweaked further so as to reward landlords, who allow builders to include their plots in the cluster scheme, with much larger area than what was proposed in the draft notice. Earlier, they were to get a built-up area equivalent to the zonal FSI, which is 1.33 in the island city and 1 in the suburbs. However, the new provision, awaiting CM’s nod, makes such landlords eligible for an area that is one and half times the basic zonal FSI in case of vacant plots and much higher where there are existing structures. This again would correspondingly increase the incentive sale component of the developer.

The original cluster redevelopment policy, issued in 2009, was meant for decrepit tenanted buildings of the island city spread over a plot area of at least one acre. The amended policy, once approved by the CM, would extend to clusters of over 30-year-old buildings spread over a minimum 2.5 acres in the suburbs where the land can include government buildings and up to 50 per cent slums. The amended policy increases the overall incentive FSI for the developers by allowing them to consume it on the gross plot. In the original policy, FSI was granted only on the net plot, which excluded non-buildable land such as compulsory open spaces and layout roads.

Urban planners say that once the amended policy is enforced, even plots adjoining narrow roads that presently house low-rises would now host up to 80-storey skyscrapers for the sale component and high-density 20-storey plus rehabilitation buildings. These will together consume an FSI that can go as high as 9 or above. “The cluster policy will lead to creation of unlivable neighbourhoods and would put an undue strain on the water supply, drainage and roads, especially in already densely populated areas such as Bhendi Bazaar,” said Pankaj Joshi from the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI).

B M Sankhe, chief architect with the state’s PWD department who is part of the high-powered committee that screens cluster projects, had written to the government about how existing tenants in the island city are being re-housed in poorly ventilated “vertical slums” on less than a fifth of the plot area. “Developers construct their super-luxury towers for sale in the market on a major chunk of the plot while the tenants, who previously occupied the plot, are crammed in structures in a corner of the plot. All compulsory open spaces within the plot are provided only for the sale component. The division between the rich and the not-so-well off is starkly visibly in the way the cluster redevelopment is executed on ground,” Sankhe said.

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