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Realty check: Mumbai Development Plan evokes mixed reaction

Monday, April 30, 2018
By Murtuza Merchant

The Maharashtra government's 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 city's 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 foundation's 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 Mumbai's 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 people's 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. - PTI

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