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Making Mumbai sustainable for the long run

Friday, December 30, 2016

Mumbai may be the city of dreams, but when it comes to the sustainability factor, it still has a long way to go. Anuja Chavan explains why

‘Sustainable’ word seems to be prefixed with everything in these days of climate change and its consequences. The realty sector is not an exception. The innate meaning of the word ‘sustainable’ as given in the definition from ‘Our Common Future’, also known as the Brundtland Report is, ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’

The sixth edition of Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) was held in New Delhi recently with theme being ‘Emerging Urban Forms – Policy Responses and Government Structures’. The conference led to the formation of Delhi Declaration and implementation planfor aligning urban development strategies of member countries with the New Urban Agenda, which was adopted at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (also known as “Habitat III” conference) held in Quito, Ecuador (South America) in September 2016 , for the next 20 years.

With APAC countries adopting the ‘New Delhi Declaration’ on Housing and Urban Development, we all can expect it to pave the way for sustainable housing and urban planning in major cities in India too. The conference also adopted ‘The Implementation Plan’, where the member countries have strongly recommended formulation of National Human Settlement Policies to promote inclusiveand safe, resilient and sustainable city with human settlements.

The problem with Mumbai
Now, considering specific case with our Mumbai city, the Sustainable Cities Index of 2015, which judged the major 50 world cities on social, economic and environmental factors, showed Mumbai looking not that good on charts. No matter how much we admire the public transport and effective rail bus system in city, Mumbai is facing stumbling blocks to effective and sustainable development. Plus, the fact Mumbai being the financial capital with every increasing population, the industries, construction sites, increasing public transport infrastructure adds to growing problems.

Though the number of people living in slums in Mumbai has decreased, the household survey showed of 2010 it to be 41.3%. Now, the local plus state government is trying hard to resolve this issue but a solution for long run seems essential at this moment. And this fact is reiterated not once but many times. The Urban sustainability Index too shows how bad Mumbai city has fared which was conducted by Indian Institute of Science (IISc), where the urban sustainability Index of Mumbai was 0.590. To add to this, Mumbai being a coastal city has disadvantages as opposed to scenic advantage of Nariman Point! It gives problems to waste management and disastrous repercussions of climate change due to rising sea level in near future.

‘Sea’ change
As observed by National Ocean Service, NOAA, Global sea level has been rising at an increasing rate since the 20th century. In the next several decades, continued sea level rise and land subsidence will cause tidal flood frequencies to rapidly increase due to typical storm surges and high tides in many coastal regions, Mumbai being no exception. Even to get the problem solving, it is important to study the rapid urban change (with the real estate sector being the major shareholder) that is going on with expanding population, infrastructure of the city and this declaration just provides the same, stressing that effective governance is the key for sustainable development of cities like Mumbai.

The main focus of adopting this declaration seems to create a pattern of sustainable urban development fostering a new model of city by taking into consideration factors like urban rules and regulations, urban planning and design, municipal finances, local fiscal systems etc. Thus, this new adoption of declaration seems like glimmer of hope, with New Year coming, for everyone involved in urban planning, management with realty sector being the major participant not only in case of Mumbai city, but all major cities in Asia Pacific.

As rightly stated by Henry David Thoreau, “What is the use of a house if you don't have a decent planet to put it on?”

(Anjua Chavan is a B.Tech civil engineer with a certified World Bank course in sustainable urban land use planning)

Implementation Plan recommendations
The 'Implementation Plan' recommended land regulation policy mechanisms such as land pooling to ensure inclusive and participatory planning, integration of land use and transportation planning across defined boundaries of cities and mixed land use, enforcement and incentivisation of timely execution of infrastructure projects, formulation of comprehensive urban parking policies and community participation in urban planning and service delivery as stated in a press release by PIB, government of India.

The declaration also called for a thorough review of existing policies and formulation of new policies to promote New Urban Agenda, which is a set of 175 commitments that countries need to consider to tackle challenges of urbanisation. It is considered as roadmap for building cities that can serve as engines of prosperity and centres of social and cultural well-being while protecting the environment.

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