WIDE disparities in living spaces and extreme densities of population in Mumbai’s slums have led to the average living space per Mumbaikar to hover around 8 square metres, or just over 86 square feet.
While the financial capital recently gained nearly 15 square kilometres through natural sedimentation along its eastern coast, the latest data regarding existing land use indicates that the living space for people remains a tight squeeze.
The new data, collected by officials as part of the ongoing revision of the city’s Development Plan, has found that the 1.24 crore population collectively occupies just 10,327.09 hectare or 103.28 square kilometres of the city’s land area.
In other words, there are over 1.2 lakh people per square kilometre space.
“The per capita residential area currently available in Mumbai is just 8.3 square metre,” the survey’s findings state.
With the addition of a 14.96- sq-km patch of lush mangrove, the city’s total area is now 473.28 sq km.
Of this, civic officials said, land use for 415.06 sq km, which is governed by the municipality, was considered for the survey. Special planning agencies, such as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), have been appointed by the state for another 43.23 sq km area.
With half of Mumbai’s population — 52 lakh or 42 per cent — living in slums, these residents occupy just over 33.96 sq km or just over 8 per cent of the land within municipal limits. In Mumbai’s slums, per capita space availability is 2.73 sq m or 29.38 sq feet. With the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) seeking more buildable space for developers on slum lands, population densities in slum enclaves could rise further, a senior official said.
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The municipality has now proposed to utilise 30 sq km of undeveloped land, currently marked under the no-development zone, for generating social housing and public open spaces. The move to open up these belts, however, has invited flak from certain quarters since the unlocked area includes some salt pans too.
Also, while Mumbai is considered the country’s economic and financial nerve centre, commercial and office spaces occupy just three per cent (12.72 sq km) of the land. A previous land use survey carried out while formulating the Development Plan of 1991 had pegged the total land area under commercial activities at 13.94 sq km.
A senior official said some ‘mixed user’ activities (lands used for residential and commercial purposes) were included in these categories. “The current data is more precise,” the official said.
Still, the data showed, land used for commercial and economic activities had not grown despite the intervening years and the economic boom.
Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta and retired bureaucrat Ramnath Jha, who is supervising the revision of the Development Plan, have both said reasserting Mumbai’s status as an economic engine was a key target while drafting the new plan. “One of the deliverables was to make spatial provisions to generate employment of eight million,” Mehta said.
Jha added that it was to achieve this objective that higher FSI incentives have been proposed for IT and bio-tech parks, and a plan to set up new Central Business Districts in Mumbai has been floated.
Land cover under industrial use has seen a steep decline from 14 per cent of the land area in 1991 to 6.25 per cent in 2001, and 5.4 per cent now. Restrictions on polluting industries and increasing land prices have seen most industries relocate to other parts of the state.