Following the Kamala Mills fire, there will be a rethink on the controversial plan to enhance buildable area rights for existing commercial and office spaces. While Mumbai’s new Development Plan has proposed a blanket increase in floor space index (FSI) — the ratio of built-up area to total plot size — for all such establishments, the Kamala Mills tragedy on December 29, in which 14 people died, has forced authorities to reconsider.
Senior government sources said that the plan being considered afresh was to freeze FSI levels for existing commercial and industrial zones in South and Central Mumbai, where the concentration of commercial office use has already led to high congestion. “We are now considering adoption of a variable FSI regime. The current FSI levels in already congested belts in South and Central Mumbai may be retained, just as additional FSI could be provided for such developments in the suburbs of Mumbai,” said a source.
While the Mumbai municipality has already cleared the original proposal, the new Development Plan is still under the consideration of the chief minister-led urban development department. When contacted, municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta said, “We are considering proposals that would decongest the island city, while promoting a walk-to-work model all across.” He refused to elaborate further.
Government sources, however, confirmed that a rethink was on the cards. “The alarm bells rang on September 29, when a rush-hour stampede at the Elphinstone Road railway station took 23 lives. It has shown how Mumbai remained unable to cope with day-time populations coming to work in South and Central Mumbai,” said the source.
The original proposal for a blanket increase in the FSI for commercial and office purposes was part of the plan to expand the economic capital’s job market. The new development plan has made spatial provisions for generating an additional 23 lakh jobs between 2016 and 2034. While the existing development plan (DP-1991) had proposed non-hiking of the floor space index areas for existing commercial and industrail zones citing increased congestion, dilutions introduced between 1991 and 2016 saw FSI incentives being doled out for such developments in favourable pockets. On the other hand, the new development plan has actively promoted increased volumes of office space.
The city’s existing land use plan shows about 1,272 hectare land area is occupied by commercial and office users, while another 2,243 hectare is occupied for industrial uses. To increase the built-up space, the proposal was to permit existing space to build three to five times the plot size, while also permitting more commercial developments in retail pockets.
Another deliverable of the new development plan is “setting up of three to four new central business district on government land to boost economic activity and employment”.
While a variable FSI regime is now likely to be implemented for existing establishments, civic officials said they would continue to push the plan for building new central business districts in the suburbs.