Study: Cluster model in suburbs may worsen Mumbai’s urban gridlock

A study commissioned by the Mumbai municipality has cautioned that the extension of the cluster redevelopment model to the suburbs will further densify the city and may impact its overall liveability index.

Written by Sandeep Ashar | Mumbai | Published:June 11, 2017 1:25 am
Mumbai Cluster Model, Redevelopment PLAN, Mumbai, FSI, Indian Express News The city is already the fifth densest in the world, according to a recent report by the United States-based Demographia, which points out that an average of 25,984 people share 1 square kilometre in Mumbai. Express Photo by Ashish Shankar Mumbai, 20/01/2008″

Builders will get additional construction rights for redevelopment of low-rise slums and old buildings in the suburbs of Mumbai with the Devendra Fadnavis government set to introduce the policy for cluster redevelopment in these parts. But a study, commissioned by the Mumbai municipality, to assess the move’s impact, has cautioned that the extension of the cluster redevelopment model to the suburbs will further densify the city and may impact its overall liveability index.

The city is already the fifth densest in the world, according to a recent report by the United States-based Demographia, which points out that an average of 25,984 people share 1 square kilometre in Mumbai. The cluster redevelopment model, also known as the Urban Renewal Scheme (URS), involves reconstruction or redevelopment of buildings on extensive areas using an incentive floor space index (FSI) model. The FSI is a development tool that defines the extent of construction permissible on a plot.

It is a ratio of built-up area to total plot area. The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government had introduced the model for the revival of old and dilapidated cessed structures in the island city of Mumbai in 2009. In 2013, the government incentivised the policy, providing developers 4 FSI. The plan to extend a similar model to the suburbs and satellite towns was first attempted by the previous government ahead of the Assembly polls in 2014. But the Bombay High Court had then prohibited it from implementing the plan in these areas without a detailed study on its ramifications.

On Friday, after the HC finally lifted the stay, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis indicated that his government intends to roll out the model for the suburbs. “This will pave way for planned development with availability of more public amenities. Buildings over 30 years will be covered in the scheme. A cluster scheme can have up to 50 per cent slum area,” he said. The CM added that his government will soon issue a notification for implementing the model in these parts.

In January 2016, the Mumbai municipality, acting on Fadnavis’s directives, ordered an impact assessment study for the measure. The National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a premier research organisation, was appointed for the task. The findings were submitted to the government last September. While Fadnavis said that the HC had taken the assessment study into account while passing the order, the report has also cautioned that Mumbai’s urban gridlock might worsen after implementation of the model in the suburbs. “The suburbs of Mumbai do not fit in the classical model of suburbs and are fairly dense habitations.

The additional FSI and the mode of its application (under URS) mean that the URS areas will increase in density. There is a considerable debate on the impact of densification and overcrowding on the social and mental life,” the report reads. Pointing out that the current FSI levels in the suburbs ranged from 1.33 to 2, the report has indicated that incentive FSI under URS may lead to significant verticalisation.

It further cautions that “high incentives given for the URS may encourage a trend to abolish repairs as a possibility and encourage demolition of existing constructions, regardless of their age and structural condition. Additionally, the scale of new construction has implications for affordability of housing and rental prices in proximate areas. Thus it can affect the liveability of the city and may lead to long term unsustainability.”

While the Fadnavis government had initially planned to replicate the model in the island city (offering 4 FSI to builders), sources said the FSI will now be capped at 3 on the basis of NEERI’s findings. Also, the minimum size of a cluster for suburbs will be 6,000 square metre, said sources. Incidentally, the NEERI report has also recommended lowering of FSI incentives to builders. It has asked the government to ensure that the new occupancy in the additional living space is restricted to 40 per cent. It has further suggested that the government should moderate the process for identifying and defining a cluster.

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