The civic body was in damage-control mode on Friday, as it defended its plan to open up ecologically sensitive lands earlier marked as no development zones.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said it was only opening up 15% of erstwhile NDZ plots and 11% of the 2,177 hectares of saltpan lands, and said most of this will be used to create more space to build affordable homes in Mumbai. It said 75% NDZ lands were being marked ‘Natural Areas’, which would ensure it won’t be open for development.
Already facing opposition from activists, the BMC has been on the backfoot especially after the ruling Shiv Sena — eager to avoid flak from citizens ahead of next year’s polls — told the administration it will not support such a plan. Sources said it was imperative now for civic chief Ajoy Mehta to clarify that the amount of land that will be opened up was actually limited. Mehta and his team on Friday said the city’s need for cheaper homes could only be met by opening up these lands.
“Currently, all of the city’s population lives on just 22% of Mumbai’s land. By asking private landowners to build cheap homes for us on NDZs, we are cutting out the cost of land completely,” he said.
“This way, we will be able to sell homes at just the cost of construction,” he said. Mehta said the BMC aims to add 10 lakh cheap homes through its ambitious programme.
Civic authorities said only 15% of NDZs, of a total 13,706.28 hectares; and 11% of the 2,177 hectares of saltpan lands will be opened up for affordable housing. The civic body is also looking at reducing the need to use saltpan land for affordable homes from the proposed 260 hectares. The civic body has allocated 46% of the total 47,624 hectares of city’s land as environmentally significant. This includes public open spaces, Natural Areas (NA) and coastal regulation zones (CRZ) I and III.
“Of 2,696.38 hectares, we have estimated 2,100 hectares to come in for affordable housing. But the balance land can be developed and if the owners wish to come forward for development through affordable housing scheme, the development will be allowed,” said a civic official.
Activists opposed to the BMC’s plans had pointed out that while MHADA and SRA were expected to provide homes at affordable rates or free of cost, the authorities couldn’t achieve their goals. This means the BMC would end up giving non-affordable homes and only help the developer benefit .