Plan to convert coastal areas into tourism zone draws flak

The plan to convert vast swathes of no development zone in the coastal regions of Gorai,Manori and Uttan into a Tourism Development Zone has come in for severe criticism from activists,who have suggested that the belt be opened up for creation of affordable housing instead.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published:May 21, 2012 1:21 am

The plan to convert vast swathes of no development zone (NDZ) in the coastal regions of Gorai,Manori and Uttan into a Tourism Development Zone has come in for severe criticism from activists,who have suggested that the belt be opened up for creation of affordable housing instead.

The Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) has written to the Chief Minister,the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) commissioner and the principal secretary of the state urban development department about the ‘flawed’ policy that is currently under consideration. The MMRDA,the state government appointed Special Planning Authority for Gorai-Manori-Uttan area since 2007,has drafted the Development Plan (DP) for the coastal belt.

The plan envisages converting land that is now labeled as Preservation Zone and NDZ land into “Green zone”. In its letter,the UDRI points out,“The terminology green zone is misleading as this zone has building potential” and that converting the land is aimed at creating “farmhouses for the wealthy”. Also,it questions the logic of granting additional construction right by way of extra floor space index for construction of bio-technology and information technology parks. It states that instead of using the “misnomer green zone”,these plots may as well be called “developable zone”. Green zone is defined in the Development Control Rules as a zone that allows for construction of residential and commercial buildings of small scale. “In our very first letter last year,we had suggested that this could be the right opportunity for opening up land for high density affordable housing. This could be done by extending the proposed metro line that terminates at Charkop and thus creating new public transit lines connecting this area to Mumbai. Instead the MMRDA’s plan paves the way for low density farmhouses,” said UDRI executive director Pankaj Joshi. To complement the mass housing,the UDRI had also suggested that land should be reserved for educational facilities,healthcare,informal livelihood of workers in the fishing industry and for women’s cooperatives.

The UDRI has also suggested that a 100m buffer zone should be maintained between any proposed roadway and the high tide line on both the eastern and western edges which should be reserved as open spaces.

Dismissing the proposed three-meter buffer zone around water-bodies and lakes as inadequate,the letter states that instead it should be extended to the entire flooding zone of the lakes in addition to a 15m buffer zone.

A senior MMRDA official said,“We have received a total of 16,000 suggestions and objections to our plan based on which we have sent our report to the state government for final approval.”

The belt falls under the jurisdiction of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation as well as the Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation.

The UDRI has sent several letters to the MMRDA and the state government pointing out the inadequacy of the existing plan. In the absence of any response,this month the research institute has requested the CM to intervene as “no rationale has been provided for any of these zonal demarcations.”

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