By Tabassum Barnagarwala, Manasi Phadke, Alison Saldanha, Srinath Rao, Priyal Dave & Dipti Singh
As the six Members of Parliament from the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance take charge in the financial capital of the country, Newsline asks each of them to detail their vision for the city. From unlocking the potential of land to creating more affordable housing, from bolstering infrastructural projects and public transport to doing the balancing act with environmental concerns, the city’s representatives in Parliament list out the issues they will pursue with the Centre in order to transform Mumbai for the better.
ARVIND SAWANT (Shiv Sena)
Mumbai South MP Arvind Sawant’s foremost concern is cluster development, and he wants increased state government role in such projects. “Now, private developers are only taking up projects which are profit making. The government has no interest in profits, so they will actually redevelop old buildings. Also, I feel that even if owners demand a high compensation, they should be given because the end result will be good,” he said.
He added that a map of the entire city should be drawn up with possible clusters that could be developed.
In a constituency like South Mumbai, having diverse economic classes and shrinking open spaces, Sawant believes that the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) lands have a massive potential for growth.
“I am going to call a meeting with MbPT officials and I will hold a separate meeting with unions to understand the issues and opportunities locked in BPT land,” he said. Even while campaigning, he has supported dredging and construction of a new terminal to boost commercialization. He added that when the offshore container berths become fully functional, there will be no significant impact on traffic in the city, a point raised by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Meera Sanyal.
For the remaining land which is free, Sawant plans to float a plan for beautification. “However, security has to be monitored as the land comes in direct contact with the sea route,” he warned.
According to a senior MbPT official, of over 700 hectares of MbPT land, at present one-third port land, is under direct operations, another one-third is used for road transport and the remaining land is under real estate.
Sawant also emphasised the need to relax the Coastal Regulation Zone rules for building towers and developing infrastructure. “If CRZ rules are not people-friendly, like they are in other countries, then a Versova-Nariman Point sea connect or construction to develop Koliwada areas will not be possible,” he said, adding that he is going to take up the issue with the Centre.
Speaking on the issue of local transport through trains, he stressed that the only solution to avoid freak railway accidents was by modifying the existing coach design. “The handles of the coaches are of steel, which makes it difficult to get a good grip if one is sweating. The coach’s structure also needs modification. For example having a footboard at the platform’s level will help in removing the gap between a train and a platform,” he said.
KIRIT SOMAIYA (BJP)
Mumbai North East
With a view to maintain balance between environmental norms and infrastructure, Kirit Somaiya wants to ‘review’ the ‘hazy concept’ of environmental laws that have, according to him, limited the expansion of Mumbai.
“Instead of a fine balance, today the condition is such that the all decisions are tilted towards the environmental laws. This is not right. Whenever there is a new concept , we must review it after a few years to see if it can be still be applied,” says Somaiya.
Citing an instance, Somaiya said, “The aim of silence zones is to control noise pollution near schools, hospitals etc. However, are those norms practical, say near a school, during non-teaching hours?”
Somaiya said “activism is killing public infrastructure and therefore there is need to maintain a fine balance between environmental laws and infrastructure development.”
Describing suburban railway system as a ‘priority’, Somaiya, who visited Kanjurmarg railway station last week, said, “Provisions for passenger amenities are a must. Fast tracking foot overbridges and road overbridges, which have been planned ten years ago is a necessity.
We need to start planning for next 20-30 years and therefore there is a requirement for expansion in present services and development of new routes. We have to plan elevated railway corridors and metros for commuters.”
Suggesting an elevated road on arterial road LBS Marg in central suburbs and on SV road in western suburbs, Somaiya said, “Both LBS and SV road are two major roads. The average waiting time on both is around 15-20 minutes. Their capacities have been completely exhausted.”
There has to be an alternative for people to commute in the next ten years, he said. According to him, work on the Goregaon Mulund link road, Ghatkopar link road, which have been stalled for years, will be undertaken soon.
Somaiya also plans to revive big projects such as the Haji Ali to Nariman Point Sealink and coastal road. Revival of Brimstowad (Brihanmumbai Storm Water Drainage), Mithi river project are also on Somaiya’s priority list.
GAJANAN KIRTIKAR (Shiv Sena)
Mumbai North West
Gajanan Kirtikar has made the proposed coastal road project his top priority. With the Western Express Highway reaching saturation point, Kirtikar says the 36.5 kilometre-long coastal road that will link Nariman Point to Kandivali will be the answer to traffic woes.
“The existing surface transport in the city is not adequate. We need an alternative to flyovers. We will get the central government’s nod to implement the coastal road project,” he said.
The state government will require the approval of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to go ahead with reclaiming land for the project. “Once ready, the coastal road will prove to be a boon and cater to the masses,” said Kirtikar.
The MP also plans to speed up housing projects in two key pockets of his constituency — Versova Koliwada and Nehru Nagar slum colony in Juhu. The koliwada is one of the largest fishing villages in Mumbai, where Kirtikar, by his own admission, did surprisingly well.
“Residents of the koliwada have 2.5 FSI available to them to build houses. But it has not been made use of yet because it is a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) area. I will try to bring relaxation in the CRZ, so that the kolis can build sturdier homes,” he said.
Former MP Gurudas Kamat had also been criticised for being unable to begin to redevelopment in Nehru Nagar, a slum sprawl of more than 80,000 residents. As the slum neighbours the Juhu Aerodrome, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has not given an NOC to go ahead with redevelopment and also put a cap on the height of new structures. “I will get the required NOC from the Civil Aviation Ministry. But I am opposed to Omkar Developers being awarded the tender for redevelopment. The party will protest if Omkar is allowed to carry out the work,” he said.
Kirtikar also wants medical emergency response to be strengthened at suburban railway stations after almost a daily occurrence of commuters losing their lives after falling into the gap between the coach and the platform. “Doctors and ambulances have to be placed at each station as standby. I have also observed that the railways management is not able spend its entire budget to improve infrastructure. We need the carrying capacity of our trains to be increased,” he said.
RAHUL SHEWALE (Shiv Sena)
Mumbai South Central
With large tracts of land in Mumbai locked for development under Union government agencies, Shiv Sena’s Rahul Shewale plans to propose the setting-up of an authority comprising central, state and civic officials to ensure that such land is readily available for infrastructure development.
Shewale said one of the main reasons that the old development plan (DP) could not be implemented in its true spirit was because the land reserved in the plan for most infrastructure amenities such as recreational grounds, play grounds, educational institutes, hospitals and municipal markets fell under the jurisdiction of central government agencies.
“If Mumbai really has to turn into an internationally-recognised city, the DP has to be followed to the minutest detail. So, I will propose the creation of a DP Implementation Authority to ensure that the new DP of 2014 is implemented in a time-bound manner within five years,” said Shewale who as the chairman of the civic body’s standing committee for four years, had an active role in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) drafting of Mumbai DP (2014-2034). He added that there is a need to look at salt pan lands of which leases have expired and the plots are lying unused.
Shewale also said he was in favour of softer rules for development in the Coastal Regulation Zone, which will pave the way for more transport-infrastructure development and faster redevelopment dilapidated buildings in this zone.
Overall, for infrastructure development related to transport, water supply, health, education, solid waste and environment, Shewale has drawn up a plan of projects costing Rs 71,000 crore for which he wants to seek central government funding.
Another project for which the MP plans to seek central government financing, is establishing an air purification plant in Chembur, known to be one of the most polluted areas in the city.
For slum proliferation, Shewale dismissed the present schemes. “The cut-off dates for eligibility of slum-dwellers is 1995, then for some other projects it is 2000. In central government’s Rajeev Awas Yojana it goes up to 2014. We need a single approach,” Shewale said, adding during his duration as an MP he wants to push several stalled redevelopment projects in his constituency such as that of Dharavi, Machimaar Nagar and BDD chawl. Shewale also advocates setting aside a portion of the Union railway budget for improvement of passenger amenities for Mumbai’s suburban railway services.
GOPAL SHETTY (BJP)
Gopal Shetty claims that one of the prime issues in his agenda will be to take on the builder-bureaucrat nexus leading to destruction of mangroves and areas under coastal regulation Zone (CRZ) in his constituency. Shetty alleges while these lands are locked when it comes to development, ‘slum mafia’ is openly encroaching the areas.
“The slum mafia is destroying the environment by clearing mangroves. After these areas are encroached builders reclaim the land under slum rehabilitation project. Residents in these areas are facing problems as there is no basic development allowed, however encroachers are getting the benefits,” alleged Shetty.
Shetty also criticised the exorbitant amount recovered by the municipal corporation towards development charges from builders and developers. “We cannot think of good and affordable housing in the city until development charges are reduced,” said Shetty.
He added that developers and builders have to pay over Rs 3,000 per square ft as development charges. “These builders then either indulge in some malpractice to avoid these charges or recover it from the property buyer. If the civic body is recovering development charges then they must utilise this money in development of infrastructure in the city like widening the roads, maintenance and repair work of the road, building flyovers to ease traffic etc. I am going to work on this issue and will submit a proposal on the same to the municipal corporation,” he said.
Speaking on the issue of local transport, he said the railways would have to bring in modification in train coaches and platforms in order to prevent frequent accidents. Advocating strict measures to control the number of cars on the streets, he said, “I endorse public transport as I feel one of the major problems that the city is facing and will face in the near future is space constraint. We have AC bus service but very less people use it. I am looking forward to the Metro and monorail project.”
POONAM MAHAJAN (BJP)
Poonam Mahajan is intent on bringing in policy changes that will allow the city to expand in the Coastal Regulatory Zones (CRZ). Her constituency includes the coastal MLA constituencies of Bandra (west), and Vile Parle where several century-old gaothans and Koliwada pockets are located.
“I will be specially pushing for releasing the gaothan lands. These are in dire need of development yet nothing can be done because of the CRZ classification. We have to work on these issues to create a larger affordable housing stock for the city,” Mahajan said. She added that she will also focus on restructuring and reworking the policies of the Maharashtra Housing Development Agency (MHADA). “This is critical for adding more affordable housing units,” Mahajan said.
She added that Mumbai can only grow vertically as it had ‘exhausted its horizontal capacity’. “Such vertical development will also increase breathing spaces with larger recreation grounds and play grounds for public to access,” she said. She added that wherever environmental clearances are pending for infrastructure projects, the party will reconsider available options. “We will not compromise on Mumbai’s precious ecosystem. However unlike the previous government, we will not hold back crucial projects for ‘other’ reasons under the guise of preservation.”
The 33-year-old MP has also committed to freeing up railway land for expansion of the Mumbai suburban railways. “The main issue here is encroachments. If we rehabilitate them, we can expand the rail network considerably and create more services. This is not an impossible task and we have the resources. All we need is a strong political will,” Mahajan said.
Apart from working for a standardised railway platform height, Mahajan will also raise issues of women’s safety and sanitation, and improvement of medical facilities at every suburban railway station.
“Earlier, one of the main issues was that both the state and Centre were ruled by a single party, so there were no proper checks. Now that power at the Centre has changed hands, we can push the state administration to work harder and deliver with better results,” she added.
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