The State Urban Development (UD) department has issued a notification scrapping the plan to build an expressway connecting Girgaum Chowpatty to Lalbaug and Sion. The city’s existing development plan, which came into force in 1991, had proposed this road corridor for decongesting traffic in the island city. Fadnavis, who heads the urban development department, has approved the proposal for issuing the notification dated January 28.
The state government has based the move on an opinion from civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta dated July 15, 2015, which had said that the “corridor was no longer feasible”.
Official records show that a builders’ collective, Property Redevelopers Association, had originally suggested a proposal for the corridor’s deletion in 2012. Records further show that while the civic body had endorsed the proposal even at that time, then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had ruled that “since the new DP was already under formulation, any proposal to scrap or lessen the width of the road corridor must be taken up only thereafter.”
Among those projects which could benefit if the decision to delete the corridor is finally approved is a highrise project taken up by PRA’s president, Haresh Mehta’s firm Rohan Developers near Chowpatty. Mehta, who had earlier announced a tie-up with US real estate magnate Donald Trump for the project (it eventually did not materialise), confirmed that he had plans to soon put up building plans for approval to the civic body. While confirming that PRA had been corresponding with the authorities for scrapping of the corridor, Mehta said that “the government had modified the plan since it felt the need to do so urgently in larger public good.”
Records reveal the former CM had revoked an earlier construction permission granted to Mehta’s firm for the project in 2010 with “existence of reservation of the road corridor” being cited as one of the irregularities.
Sources also confirmed that despite the road corridor featuring on the DP plan, the civic body had processed building plans for redevelopment of a few other properties that were impacted by the reservation along the Girgaum Chowpatty to Lalbaug stretch, including a super-luxury project being development by yet another construction major. Retention of the corridor would have meant ceding a portion of the land as setback to the government.
Official documents reviewed by The Indian Express also show that the Maharashtra Public Works Department has opposed the scrapping of the road corridor and had insisted that developing it was vital for decongesting South Mumbai traffic.
The official notification, signed by UD’s Joint Secretary Srirang Landge, states, “There are many cessed buildings in dilapidated condition that cannot be developed due to the road corridor reservation. The MMRDA has already conveyed that the Metro/Monorail projects will improve the public transport system. The state government is of the opinion that it is necessary to urgently modify the said plan to give relief to dilapidated buildings and remove hurdles in the redevelopment.”
“The stretch from Lalbaug to Sion is mostly developed along with a number of flyovers. But the stretch from Girgaum Chowpatty to Lalbaug is yet to be developed. The civic commissioner informed on July 15, 2015 that building the corridor in the latter stretch was not feasible,” it further states.
Although it was argued that an earlier version of the draft new DP, which was discarded on the chief minister’s orders, had excluded the road corridor, senior civic officials confirmed that town planning norms indicate that for public reservation the “more stringent” from the existing and the draft DP would have been applicable even if the government had persisted with the latter. Fadnavis had earlier directed Mehta to ready the new DP draft by May 31, 2016.
The government has now called for suggestions and objections within a month on its move, following which a final sanction to the proposal to delete will be processed. The road corridor was first conceived in 1963 when urban planner, Wilbur Smith first proposed it as part of a series of expressways for seamless travel in Mumbai.