Forget Shanghai, Mumbai might start resembling Dubai. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has now proposed the creation of nine plots in the Arabian Sea, along the city’s coast at Walkeshwar.
In its development plan (DP), the BMC has mooted the plots be created off Walkeshwar road, one of the toniest addresses in the city. According to the map, these plots, likely to be reclaimed, will come up where the sea hits the shore along the road.
Current environmental rules do not permit commercial or residential construction within the sea. The area falls under Coastal Regulation Zone-I and also falls within the high tide line, both indicators of just how ecologically fragile the zone is. Such construction will not just affect tidal patterns, but also make the city more vulnerable to flooding, fear civic activists.
The zone, however, also boasts of some of the city’s costliest real estate.
The government’s ready reckoner rates show a 1,000 sqft flat here would cost more than Rs8 crore, while a plot of land, 1,000 sqft in size, will cost nearly Rs5 crore. The actual market rates are considerably higher than these prices.
The DP, however, does not offer any more details of what the BMC’s plans for these plots are. HT’s repeated attempts, via text messaging and email, to get in touch with BMC chief Ajoy Mehta and a response from his office were unsuccessful, with both refusing to respond.
The proposed DP has, controversially, pursued the reclamation of land from sea. It has proposed the reclamation of 300 acres of land at Cuffe Parade to create an open space. It has also proposed to reclaim land for the creation of the coastal road as well as create open spaces along the road.
HT has reported how the BMC has sought to open up ecologically critical natural areas such as mangroves, salt pan lands, forests like Sanjay Gandhi National Park, for development. For instance, the BMC has planned a road cutting through the core areas of the National Park and breaching the critical prohibited area around Kanheri Caves to pass just metres away from it.
These plots were also proposed in the 1991 development plan. But urban planners said that cannot be the reason for marking them again. “It’s ridiculous that the BMC doesn’t seem to apply its mind while marking land parcels out. They cannot repeat the mistakes of the 1991 plan without giving it a fresh thought,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director of Urban Design Research Institute.
A major difference between 1991 and now is the existence of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules, which govern how land in coastal areas, eco-sensitive in nature, must be developed. These rules were not in existence when the 1991 DP came into effect. For this reason alone, the BMC should have reconsidered its plan to facilitate these plots, said experts.