While it had vouched for the preservation of ecology at the time of scrapping the Aarey Metro car shed project in Mumbai, the Uddhav Thackeray government has now permitted building of club houses, swimming pools and other recreational facilities on green belts across Maharashtra.
Easing curbs on development of “green belt” land marked in development plans (DP) of urban local bodies, the state government has also allowed the entire floor space index (FSI) potential of a green belt to be loaded on the remaining land in the same layout or a plot.
The new uniform development control regulations, notified by the government on December 4, stated: “The FSI of a green belt may be allowed on the remaining land of the owner by counting the area of a green belt in the gross area of the plot subject to the condition that this area shall always be under tree cover. The owner shall plant trees in this area with proper planning at a rate of minimum 100 trees per hectare that should have survived for at least one year prior to the issuance of occupation certificate.”
The FSI is a development tool that defines the extent of construction permissible on a plot. It is the ratio of the total built-up area to the total plot area.
With the exception of Mumbai and a few carved out special planning zones, the new regulations, which were released by the Shiv Sena-controlled urban development department, are applicable to all civic bodies and metropolitan areas.
Green belts — usually marked alongside river fronts, nullahs and other eco-sensitive areas — were previously characterised by restricted construction activity.
Allowing more construction activity in such designated land, the new rules stated that green belts can also be used for “river front developments and building of boat clubs, cycle and jogging tracks, pedestrian pathways” after leaving 15 m belt along river banks and 9 m along nullahs.
Traditionally used as buffer zones to avoid excessive construction activity near eco-sensitive pockets, the green belts can now also be included as the “recreational open space” in a layout under development.
Meanwhile, Uddhav’s son Aaditya, the state environment minister, continued to promote the government’s “environment-friendly” approach. On December 5, he tweeted, “It has been a year of green governance and we are committed to protection, conservation and growth of nature in the plan for sustainable development.”
With the new regulations already hiking bulk FSI levels considerably, town planners are divided over building on green land, with some opining that this will strain the ecology and the environment.
Although the draft of the new regulations was formulated during the previous Devendra Fadnavis regime, the Uddhav Thackeray government has finalised it. Besides hike the base FSI levels across the state and also the additional FSI that can be availed upon the payment of premium, the government has upped the compensation or transferable development rights (TDR) to owners in lieu of land surrendered for development of public reservations.
While owners in Mumbai get 2 to 2.5 times the surrendered area’s market value as TDR, the government has offered TDR of 3 times the gross area of the surrendered plot under the new rules.
Offering an additional 5 per cent incentive for surrender of such plot within two years, the government has also allowed owners to claim “reservation credit certificates” in lieu of the compensation that can be used for payment of various civic taxes and levies, including development charges, property tax and infrastructure charges among others.
A section of town planners, however, said that the government should have dovetailed the hike in FSI to the infrastructure available in these emerging cities and towns.
More FSI, tax rebates
To promote greener buildings, the new regulations offer 3 to 7 per cent FSI sop for buildings certified as green by government-empanelled agencies.
The government has also offered a 5 per cent rebate in property tax for societies and commercial buildings setting up grey water recycling plants.
All plots measuring more than 5,300 sq ft will have to compulsorily set up a rainwater harvesting plant, while solar water heaters and wet waste management plants have been made mandatory for buildings on a plot of 43,000 sq ft or more.
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