The draft Development Plan (2014-34) had to be scrapped to make place for a revised one. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, as the urban development minister, was left with no other option after the avalanche of objections poured in from all quarters. Mumbai’s development for the next two decades on the basis of a deeply flawed and unsound plan would have been disastrous, indeed. It’s a triumph of citizens’ power.
But what is the assurance that its replacement, which Fadnavis wants ready in the next four months, will be an exemplary plan and address all the lacunae that riddled this DP?
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and its consultants should have figured out, by now, what they must not to do to evolve a thorough plan for Mumbai’s sustainable and equitable development. But there is no guarantee that lessons have been learned.
There is a dash of political one-upmanship in April 21’s decision. Fadnavis’ decision fetches him brownie points from a range of citizens’ groups and individuals who blamed the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC for the flawed DP. It also allows him to demonstrate the BJP’s concern for the city and score points against the Sena. Never mind that the DP was authored by a bureaucrat-consultant group more than Sena’s civic leaders.
In fact, the Sena cut a piquant picture in the last few weeks, as its chief Uddhav Thackeray railed against the DP prepared by an organisation ostensibly under his political control.
Politics apart, there is now a chance for the planners to return to the drawing board and recast the DP in the light of the nearly 25,000 objections that came their way. There a number of things that the revised DP must not miss.
It must acknowledge slums and slum colonies across Mumbai in a realistic manner. It must budget for the entire city — that Mumbai, which will be the centre of the formal knowledge economy but also that which is home to the informal economy.
The revised DP must make provisions for affordable housing; it should set aside the maximum possible per capita open and green space; it must map Aarey Colony, mangrove patches and salt pan lands for what they are, and not as plots for construction in the future; it should clearly mark out heritage sites, structures and precincts as no-development zones.
The revised DP must also plan beyond roads and bridges to build and maintain even pavements and pathways for pedestrians who comprise the single largest segment of 44% of all commuters in the city; and last, but not the least, the revised DP must include the gender perspective at all levels of planning.
Besides these, it is expected that the revised DP will correct the errors at micro level — streets proposed through existing bungalows, religious places and gaothans, and hawking zones mindlessly scattered across the city to name only two. It is anybody’s guess if the exercise can be completed in four months when the scrapped version took more than three years.
A significant issue is at stake here. A DP must focus on micro aspects and the details, but a DP is more than just the sum of its parts. It ought to convey the broad vision for the city’s future development. The signal that shone through the scrapped DP was that the city was a free-play zone for real estate developers.
Surely, Mumbai is more than a haven for this lobby and Mumbaiites do not want their city to be recognised only as the construction/constructed capital of the world by 2034.
Fadnavis, more than the BMC planners, must ensure that the new/revised DP does not become a builders’ blueprint. Can he or does he even want to?