The battle to save the city’s open spaces is all set to get fierce.
In the development control regulations (DCR 2034) released on Sunday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has controversially proposed to open up for redevelopment large plots that have been reserved for open spaces, but are occupied by slums.
The plan is to develop 50 per cent of the plot as an open space and use the remaining to resettle slum dwellers.
The civic body has proposed to use this formula for plots that have an area of more than 500 sqm. In case of smaller plots, the tenants will be shifted out and the plot will be reclaimed and used as an open space.
This, in effect, means while the civic body will attempt to free up smaller plots, larger plots will have to be divided in a way that the city gets only half the plot. In the other half, a private builder will be allowed to resettle slum dwellers and build private homes, which will be sold at market rates.
The move, aimed at breaking the deadlock surrounding 346 hectares of open space occupied by slum clusters, is kicking up a debate.
While the civic body calls this a practical solution, experts have termed it “lazy thinking”.
The move raises suspicion that it may end up benefitting builders and robbing the open-spaces starved city of large plots, especially because it seeks to dilute an SRA rule, which had mandated that 30 per cent of the open space be used to resettle slums, while the remaining 70 per cent be converted into an open space. The controversial rule was stayed by the Bombay high court in 2003, on a petition filed by Citispace, a not-for-profit.
According to a recent slum rehabilitation authority (SRA) survey, a total of 346 hectares, reserved for open spaces, were currently occupied by slums. However, with the HC stay, authorities have not been able to come up with better solutions to reclaim open spaces.
By coming up with this 50:50 sharing solution, the civic body hopes to break the deadlock. “We have taken a major decision to retain all reservations of open spaces made in the 1991 development plan and sent a message that the city won’t lose out on amenities only because it was encroached upon by people. We must find a solution to this issue [of encroached open spaces] and hence, we proposed this,” said BMC chief Ajoy Mehta.
Pankaj Joshi, executive director of Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), said, “The city needed more out-of-the box, innovative thinking. The BMC should have designed options in a way that the land could have been saved and slums resettled. For instance, it could have proposed merging of resettlement of two slum clusters in a radius of a few kilometres and saved amenity spaces.”