Damning Development

Why there is widespread anger and disappointment after BMC revealed details of consultations on Development Plan.

Written by Shalini Nair | Mumbai | Updated: April 3, 2015 3:27 am
development plan, mumbai development plan, BMC, BJP, mumbai news, city news, local news, mumbai newsline What the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) revealed after five years of consultations and fine-tuning, however, triggered widespread anger and disappointment.

The revision of the Development Plan (DP) for Mumbai was seen as a once-in-20-years opportunity to address grave challenges of inadequate social and physical infrastructure, open spaces and shelter for the city’s 12.5 mn people. What the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) revealed after five years of consultations and fine-tuning, however, triggered widespread anger and disappointment. SHALINI NAIR explains why.

What is the Development Plan (DP) 2014-34?
A detailed land-use plan to meet the needs of Mumbai’s projected population of 13.94 million by 2034, including green or recreational open spaces, water supply and sanitation, waste management, roads and transport, primary education, healthcare, etc. The plan also marks out residential, commercial, industrial and natural zones. After 1967 and 1991, this is the third DP for Mumbai.

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How much open space per capita has it allotted?
2 square metres, which is far less than the 10-12 sq m per person ideal set by the Centre’s Urban Development Plans Formulation and Implementation Guidelines (UDPFI). This average includes swathes of open spaces that are inaccessible to the public — Raj Bhavan, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Navy Nagar, etc. The 1991 DP earmarked 6 sq m per person in the suburbs and 2 sq m in South Mumbai. BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte has argued that increasing open space allocation by even 1 sq m per capita would take away 14 sq km developable land. The argument has not found takers in view of the BMC’s plan to turn a chunk of the 1,000-hectare green cover in Aarey Colony into a concrete growth hub.

What about allocations for other amenities?
For educational amenities, it is 1.37 sq m per person (UDPFI standard is 3.58 sq m per person); for health, 0.38 sq m per capita (UDPFI: 0.83 sq m to 1.28 sq m per capita). Earlier, much of the land was separately marked for civic or government-run facilities; this category does not exist in the new plan, ignoring all those who can’t afford private education and healthcare. Mumbai’s slum population — 41.85 per cent of the total — has got the short shrift. Land set aside in the 1991 DP as ‘No Development Zones’ has now been earmarked for private residential and commercial use, while previously existing categories like public housing and housing for the dis-housed have been dropped. 1,000 of 1,500 notified and proposed heritage structures in Mumbai have been excluded from land-use maps; provisions to protect even earmarked structures/sites have been greatly diluted. It was claimed that the DP had taken into account views of citizens, NGOs and politicians, but sector experts have said none of their views have been included in the draft.

What is the controversy over floor space index?
More than the lowering of quality-of-life benchmarks, critics are upset over the proposed manifold increase in floor space index (FSI). FSI, a much misused urban planning tool in land-starved Mumbai, is the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the size of the plot, and lays down the extent to which construction is allowed. An FSI of 2 on a 10,000 sq m plot would, therefore, allow construction of 20,000 sq m built-up area. The standard FSI now is 1.33 in South Mumbai and 2 in the suburbs, with higher FSIs allowed in certain specific cases. The new DP has allowed massive increase in FSI in the range of 2.5 to 8, depending on proximity to modes of mass transit. Highest FSIs are for the areas closest to railway/Metro stations, which are already teeming with a huge floating population. While the BMC sees an opportunity to make money by charging a premium for higher FSI, the move is likely to further densifying Mumbai, and raise higher already high home prices.

Where does Raj Thackeray come in?
He has joined the opposition to the plan that is widely perceived to be pro-builder. He has sought to link it to an alleged conspiracy to oust the Marathi manoos from Mumbai through gradual gentrification. Recently, the MNS put up posters showing the crucifixion of the Marathi manoos with highrises in the backdrop. Several Bollywood stars came to a meeting he convened to discuss the plan over the weekend.

What happens with the DP now?
This is still the draft version, and citizen activism may yet force changes that reflect different priorities. However, considering the fact that the draft DP is riddled with flaws, the overwhelming demand, from politicians to citizens’ groups, has been to altogether junk the report and start the process afresh.

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