WHILE the financial capital is already bursting at the seams with congestion levels burdening infrastructure and services, a study commissioned by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has found that the state’s plan to extend the cluster redevelopment model or the Urban Renewal Scheme (URS) to the suburbs of Mumbai would further densify the city and impact its overall “liveability” index.
The URS refers to reconstruction or redevelopment of buildings using an incentive floor space index (FSI) model. It was introduced for old and dilapidated cessed structures in the island city in 2009. In 2013, to encourage large-scale redevelopment under the model, the government further incentivised the policy, providing the developer a FSI of 4, or built-up space that is four times the gross plot area.
Although a plan to extend the model to the suburbs and satellite towns was first floated in 2014, it was deferred after the Bombay High Court directed the government to carry out an impact assessment study.
Accordingly, in January this year, the Devendra Fadnavis government — keen to implement the model in the suburbs before the model code of conduct for the municipal polls kicks in — ordered the BMC to take up impact assessment for the suburbs. The municipality, in turn, tasked National Environment Engineering Research Institute with the assignment. Senior officials confirmed that NEERI’s findings were submitted to the government last week.
The report indicates that replication of a model similar to the island city plan could worsen the urban gridlock, worsening quality of life in Mumbai. “The suburbs in Mumbai do not fit 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 by three times at least. There is a considerable debate on the impact of densification and overcrowding on the social and mental life,” states the report. Saying that the suburbs of Mumbai were “originally thought of as low density, low rise areas”, it adds that the “URS with its proposal of 4 FSI is a proposal for significant verticalisation of the suburbs.”
According to the report, the current FSI levels in the suburbs range from 1.33 to 2.
It has also cautioned that “the high incentives given for the URS may encourage a trend to abolish repairs as a possibility and encourage demolition of existing constructions”. It says the scale of new construction will impact prices, thus affecting liveability of the city. Mapping the impact an increase in FSI up to 4 would have on services such as water supply, transportation, storm water drains, sewerage, electricity and others, researchers found that the demand-supply gap would widen.
Assuming that 50 pc of developed non-slum area will be renewed under URS with an FSI of 4, the report projects a 28 pc population rise in the suburbs — from 98.90 lakh currently to 126.34 lakh. While Mumbai’s new Development Plan (2014-2034) has projected that the city’s population will start declining after 2021, NEERI’s report has contested this claim.
This additional population, the report has projected, will push up the water demand by another 411.6 million litres daily (MLD) as per the minimum standard of 150 litres per capita daily. Currently, the city gets around 3,750 MLD, while the total demand is over 4,000 MLD. Although the BMC has plans to augment the supply by another 440 MLD from the proposed Gargai dam project, the report projects that demand for the additional population won’t be met even after the new reservoir is tapped. Similarly, demand for electricity will increase nearly 2.275 times, amounting to an additional load of 400 MW, and that an increased solid waste of 1,530 tonnes per day would be generated.
Also, while the new DP proposes road widening and new road corridors, the study says additional population will mean that the “traffic flow in the suburbs remains unstable even after the various road widening and proposed road areas.”
The other big fallout would be public open spaces, set to fall to 1.872 sq metres per person in the suburbs even though the DP proposes to make available 4 square meter per person. Planning standards for educational and medical amenities won’t be met too.
To maintain the current levels of service, the NEERI has recommended that the incentive FSI should be brought down to 3. It has also suggested intervention to ensure that occupancy in the additional living space is restricted to either 20 pc ( in the case of 4 FSI) or 40 pc (for 3 FSI). It has also said that the government should moderate the process for identifying and defining a cluster.
A senior civic official said that the study has been carried out on the assumption that 50 pc of the developed non-slum area will be renewed. “In reality, this would be much less,” he said.
Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta said, “Most of the additional living space created will be occupied by those already in Mumbai. We will also take steps to improve urban infrastructure to bridge the demand supply gap for infrastructure and services.”