Murtuza Merchant, India Today, April 29 2018
The Maharashtra governments decision to unlock more land for the housing sector in its Development Plan (DP) 2034 for Mumbai has evoked mixed reaction among citizen groups and environmentalists.
Some of the groups criticised the decision to release vast tracts of land now falling under No Development Zones for affordable housing and increase the floor space index (FSI), saying these measures will only help realtors.
Environmentalists warned the DP will have “disastrous” impact on the citys already crumbling infrastructure.
However, some NGOs have come out in support of the much-awaited DP for Mumbai unveiled on April 25.
Mitesh Prajapati of the Citizen Civic Solutions Foundation, that had suggested changes in the draft DP, said the FSI alloted for commercial properties in the name of affordable housing and employment generation will, in reality, only benefit builders.
“We strongly oppose the decision to grant an FSI of 5 for commercial properties and will approach the court once we receive the final copy of the DP. Only builders will benefit from this move.
“This has happened in the past where many builders took advantage of higher FSI in the name of constructing IT centres. Many buildings were built but IT centres have not come up till date,” Prajapati, the foundations spokesperson, said.
FSI is the ratio of the total built-up area to the total area of a plot. It is basically a tool that defines the extent of construction permissible on a plot.
Prajapati, whose NGO was invited by Minister of State for Urban Development Ranjit Patil for consultation, said they had advised against giving additional FSI to commercial properties in residential areas but the government did not pay heed to their suggestion.
“We have not yet received a final copy of DP plan. We shall wait for this and then approach the court,” he said.
Debi Goenka, Executive Trustee, the Conservation Action Trust, an NGO formed to protect the environment, said Mumbais infrastructure is already at a breaking point, and it cannot support any increase in FSI or expansion in residential and commercial areas.
“There is inadequate water supply, air is not fit to breathe, and there is no place to treat our sewage and dump our garbage. The roads are congested and 10-15 train commuters die every day (due to overcrowding). The sanctioned DP is a disaster in the making,” he said.
Goenka said an additional area of 14.96 square km, proposed to be added to open spaces, is actually stretches of mangrove created because of siltation of the Thane creek.
“At the same time, there is a move to destroy hundreds of acres of mangroves in Malad for a sewage treatment plant, and also divert hundreds of acres of salt pans to builders under the guise of affordable housing,” he said.
“The DP has been sanctioned without putting in place the Coastal Zone Management Plan. The `koliwadas (fishing colonies) have also not been marked on the DP sheets. The DP also does not look at the adverse impact of climate change and sea level rise on Mumbai,” Goenka said.
Sitaram Shelar, a member of the Hamara Shehar Mumbai Abhiyan, a city-wide peoples campaign to demand an inclusive and participatory DP, said he welcomed the provisions of multi purpose housing for women and shelters for the homeless.
“We also appreciate the provision of an annual budget allocation for DP implementation,” he said.
However, Shelar said the provision for constructing one million houses was nothing but a “political gimmick” and would not see the light of the day.
“The government is not ready to define affordability so it is clear that in the name of the common man, they will give these lands to developers for building elite townships,” he said.
“With the higher FSI, there will be further traffic chaos, pollution and adverse health effects on citizens. The environment was last on their agenda it seems,” Shelar said.
Architect and Congress MLC Anant Gadgil said instead of putting additional load on the metropolis, the government should have laid thrust on building sub-growth centres between Mumbai and cities like Pune and Nashik.
“Europe promotes the concept of working where you live for professionals. A similar idea, based on existing situation, could have been adopting here instead of promoting commercial spaces.
“The city has already reached its saturation point,” said Gadgil, who has raised issues relating to town planning several times in the Maharashtra Legislative Council.
Gadgil said trees are already being cut for metro lines and salt pans have now been added to the DP so no space is left for open lands and greenery.
“The government, from a town planning point of view, has used the wrong approach. Buildings will now be so near that a person from one building would be able to shake hands with another in the adjacent building. There will be no space for wind flow and evacuation will be a difficulty in case of an emergency,” Gadgil said.
Rajan Samuel, Managing Director, Habitat for Humanity India, however, welcomed the DPs thrust on housing.
“This is a very welcome move as everyone deserves to have a decent place to live. With meticulous planning and proper execution, the DP can positively change the growth story of Mumbai and its citizens,” said Samuel, whose not-for- profit outfit works towards addressing the housing needs of low-income families.
“There is very little land left in the city for development. It (the DP) will help realise the dreams of the middle-class and the poor sections to have a home of their own.
“Mumbai is definitely thriving with more and more people relocating to the city. In such a scenario the DP, with its emphasis on affordable housing, will ensure existing and new residents live in quality conditions,” Samuel said. PTI