The city’s salt pans have grown more than three-fold in four years, according to data used by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in its latest revision of the city’s development plan (DP). The civic body, using figures quoted by the salt commissioner at a meeting held at least two years ago, now claims Mumbai has a whopping 2,177 hectares of salt pans.
This figure doesn’t match any other data, including the civic body’s own figures from last year’s revised draft DP. According to this draft, which has since been scrapped, the city had 797.7 hectares of salt pans. In 2012, the BMC, as part of its existing land use (ELU) exercise, had estimated the size of the city’s salt pans at 650 hectares. The Maharashtra Wetland Atlas 2010, put together after a thorough survey of the state’s wetlands and other environmental features, said Mumbai had 923 hectares of salt pans.
This discrepancy may jeopardise the BMC’s plan to open up a portion of salt pans for development. The civic body said it would consider opening up 11%, or 250 hectares of the city’s 2,177 hectares of salt pans. However, going by the civic body’s own ELU data, 250 hectares would equate to 38% of the city’s salt pans.
BMC chief Ajoy Mehta said the BMC relied on figures provided by the salt commissioner. “We had a meeting with then union minister P Chidambaram at which the salt commissioner quoted these figures. We have taken these figures from the minutes of that meeting since it is the salt commissioner who has to decide the future of these lands.”
However, planning experts said the BMC’s approach was poor. “How can a city’s development plan be made on the minutes of some meeting? It must be based numbers that have been verified on the ground. If the figures are not verified, planning and provisioning for them will be futile,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute.