Experts and activists are raising questions about the effectiveness of a development plan (DP) that will not take into account at least 65% of Mumbaiites and 19 sq km of the city.
The civic body's recently prepared existing land use survey (ELU), which will form the basis for the new DP), has skipped mapping the city’s slums and other major pockets under the jurisdiction of other government agencies.
Retired civic officials said a similar approach was followed even when the 1991 DP, which is currently in force, was prepared. Slums were not mapped, as a result of which their growth could not be recorded or tracked.
“We failed to realise the ill-effects of not having integrated slums as part of our DP because they kept increasing in size, and the city was not prepared to tackle this growth. The result was that the city’s infrastructure fell woefully short in fulfilling even their basic needs,” said a retired civic official, requesting anonymity.
Academicians said not mapping slums reflects the state government’s attitude towards the urban poor. “This is hardly surprising as slum areas have never figured in the priority lists of governmental agencies. Such a move makes it clear that the intent behind planning is to let 65% of your population continue to live in wretched conditions,” said Sandhya Iyer, faculty member, Centre for Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
“You cannot make ELU the sole basis of your planning. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation needs to constitute local sabhas, which can reveal the needs of the area and also help in the implementation of such plans,” said Iyer.
An official, who is a part of the DP revision process, said mapping slums was a technical nightmare. “We have demarcated slums from the rest of the city. But an in-depth study was not possible as it will require different techniques and will be time-consuming.” The official, however, said planning for these areas would happen. “The 2011 census has given us the population residing in these areas, so we will plan accordingly.”
Experts argued that the BMC’s approach is flawed. Pankaj Joshi, executive director of Urban Design Research Institute, which has analysed the ELU, said: “A slum can have households, small industries that deal with everything - from tannery to small garment unit to handicrafts and even shops. How can you club them all together and plan for them depending solely on their population?”
Despite repeated attempts, Rajiv Kuknur, chief engineer of the development plan department, refused to respond.