You may soon see high-rises towering over the Queen’s Necklace and replacing the art deco buildings (a bold, decorative architechtural style) that so symbolise Marine Drive.
If the report presented by civic chief Sitaram Kunte is accepted by the state, it could also mean that Mumbai may lose out on the chance to have a Unesco world heritage site. Defending his predecessor Subodh Kumar’s decision to allow Vasant Sagar building to be redeveloped to a 58-metre-high structure as against the restricted 24 metres, Kunte wrote to the state two weeks ago, proposing the policy that permits buildings on Marine Drive to go higher.
As per this policy, all except the first row of buildings that face the promenade can add extra floors provided they don’t disturb the view of the skyline from the promenade.
Experts and activists said the policy is absurd and have demanded that Kunte’s report be dismissed and the heritage committee’s guidelines on Marine Drive be accepted.
Property along the Queen’s Necklace is one of the costliest in the city, but the area has not seen much construction because of the regulations governing it. Activists fear that Kunte’s move will lead to rampant development along the stretch.
In March, hearing a petition filed by residents opposing the nod given to Vasant Sagar, Bombay high court directed Kunte to consult the heritage committee and submit his report to the government. In his report, Kunte has dismissed the committee’s recommendations to restrict the height of buildings to 24 metres and stated that buildings there are on small plots and need to go higher for redevelopment to be feasible.
A member of the A-Ward Federation, which has written to the chief minister with its objections, said: “Buildings on Marine Drive have more than 850 square metres of space so Kunte can’t equate them with small dilapidated buildings in the island city.”
Nayana Kathpalia, another member of the federation, said: “We will strongly protest against this as this will destroy the Marine Drive precinct.”
Conservationists said a state nod for this policy would seriously jeopardise the plan to file nomination for Marine Drive as a Unesco world heritage site. “This stretch is known for its art deco architecture and it would be foolish to allow short-sighted bureaucrats and builders to bring about haphazard construction.”
Despite repeated attempts, Kunte did not respond.