How do you plan for a city that was built on the notions of informality? This was the question experts attempted to tackle at a panel discussion on Mumbai’s development plan (DP).
Held as part of Bajaj Electricals Urban Design and Architecture section of the HT Kala Ghoda Arts Festival on Tuesday, the session addressed the role of architecture in public planning, and went on to explore the myriad issues surrounding the city’s Development Plan, with questions raised on the efficacy of the process of city planning itself.
“Architects and planners work with numbers, which are often misleading, and people of the city themselves are not considered. We need people-centric development,” said Sitaram Shelar from the Hamara Shahar Mumbai Abhiyan.
Sheela Patel, founding director of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres, suggested that the planners lacked perspective on how localities would be affected by the development process. “The purpose of the DP is to arbitrate the conflicts [resulting from the use of space]. But since the city doesn’t have the capacity to arbitrate, the conflicts between developers and poor inhabitants continue,” she added.
Architect and activist Neera Adarkar described the process as ‘a hopeless situation’. “This was the first time the civic body had a conversation with citizens’ groups regarding a DP. However, the citizens’ groups went overboard with their demands, which became an excuse for the administration to drop all their ideas by calling them irrelevent to the planning process,” she said.
The discussion was moderated by architect Mustansir Dalvi.
Shailesh Gaikwad, political bureau chief at Hindustan Times Mumbai, cited examples of government attempts to develop the mill land and “messy” development of land in the Powai area, to suggest that both planned and unplanned transformation has potential for failure. “The government will anyways prepare a plan and the citizens should push their own plans, which should lead the state to think about a master plan,” said Prasad Shetty, a city-based urbanist.
The session was well-received by the audience. Kshitij Sarote, a recent graduate from the JJ School of Architecture said, “It was a very revealing session. As a student, you don’t really learn enough about these aspects of the city.”