In a controversial proposal, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) wants to delete all existing land reservations on occupied plots across the city. This would effectively mean the city losing out around 700 hectares of open space as well as hundreds of hectares of land reserved for educational and medical facilities.
The civic body has made the proposal in its draft development plan (DP), but has not specified how many such reservations it plans to scrap. The BMC said it will “generally” delete reservations if the plots are either encroached up on by slum dwellers or are privately owned with structures on them.
A civic official said this was being done since the 1991 DP had reserved a lot of plots for various amenities despite them being already developed.
So if your locality had a planned open space or a plot reserved for educational facilities that has now being encroached up on, it stands to lose its reservation.
The BMC has refused to reveal the exact area that will be lost if the exercise is carried out.
However, a 2012 survey by architect Neera Adarkar for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region’s Environment Improvement Society said around 684 hectares of open spaces, which could give the city 77 new Oval Maidans, had been encroached up on. This land could now be lost forever, if the BMC’s proposal is cleared.
The city’s slums occupy 33.96 sq km of land across the city and most reservations in these slum clusters will be lost. Reserved plots on which the civic body has either allowed construction or those where they have ignored encroachments will also be lost.
Urban planners and activists have criticised the proposal, saying the BMC is being lazy with its ideas. “Rather than having a blanket rule, they should ideally go case-by-case and see the plots where they can try and extract land for the city,” said Adarkar.
Pankaj Joshi, executive director of the urban design research institute, said such a move was only going to help the city’s builder lobby, encouraging them to redevelop slums. “Rather than having such a blatantly builder-friendly policy, they should be more imaginative and look at strategies to ensure that this land can be reclaimed.”
Interestingly, the BMC’s move comes even as NAGAR, formerly Citispace, is locked in a judicial battle with the civic body for ensuring that plots with an open space reservation, occupied by slums, are not lost. “How can the BMC propose such a way even while we are fighting in court and trying to find a way to reclaim these spaces? It’s shocking that the authorities don’t seem to have the wherewithal to achieve more amenities for the city,” said Nayana Kathpalia from NAGAR.