Reacting to the backlash against the high floor-space index (FSI) proposed in Mumbai’s Development Plan (DP) 2034, its architect V K Phatak said the DP was not designed to contain densities but to ensure that the market and building norms were not distorted through such controls. Phatak, former Chief Planner of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, was speaking at a panel discussion on alternative perspectives to ‘Smart Mumbai’ organised by the Institute of Urban Designers, India (IUDI) on Saturday.
“The concept of containing city’s growth and density is outdated. We need an environment where markets can function instead of distorting it. We cannot control a city’s growth and manage form,” he said.
The city’s revised DP, the twenty-year land use blueprint drafted by a team led by Phatak, has for the first time substantially increased the FSI between 2.5 and to a maximum of 8 in the already crowded transit corridors. As against this, DP 1967 had a differential yet low FSI, while DP 1991 had a low uniform FSI.
K T Ravindran, founder of IUDI, said there was a direct link between the FSI and civic services and hence the process of granting it should be scientific. “An FSI of 4 to 8 has huge implications on water supply, sewarage and other civic amenities. This issue can’t be addressed through land use but urban design. We need an optimum city and not a maximum city which has no future,” he said.
Challenging the technology-centric idea of smart cities, Ravindran added that the current trend of information technology and industrial parks coming up in the name of smart cities failed to reflect the diversity of urban areas.
Architect and activist Neera Adarkar said the idea of Mumbai as a smart city could not be looked at in isolation but in the context of its migration linkages to rural areas. According to panelists, while on the one hand the state is keen to develop infrastructure such as coastal road meant for private car-owners, the DP failed to emphasise on augmenting public transport, pedestrian and cycling routes or promoting affordable housing. “It is a lie that releasing more land will make housing affordable. Twice the argument has been proved wrong; first when the Urban Land Ceiling Act was repealed and then when mill land was freed. And yet the same argument about affordability is being used to demand that salt pan lands in Mumbai be released,” said Adarkar.
According to IUDI, 52 per cent of people in Mumbai walk to work and yet cars – owned by 8 per cent of the population – enjoy 80 per cent of the right of way; 90% use public transport but much of it lacks last mile connectivity. Moreover, the city is the world’s 16th most expensive in terms of real estate, even though it ranks 209 in terms of per-capita income.