A day after it came to light that the city’s green areas have nearly doubled in four years according to a new Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) calculation, questions are emerging on how valid is the number play.
HT had, on Monday, reported that while the civic body’s existing land use (ELU) maps had recorded 11,303 hectares of the city as “natural areas”, the civic body has now recorded 21,096 hectares, an increase of 87 per cent. Data available with Hindustan Times show that of the 21,096 hectares, half of that land, 10,924 hectares is under the coastal regulation zones (CRZ).
While these lands have restricted development potential, a lot of them have already seen growth, largely before the 1991 regulation, before notification of these zones came into effect. For instance, the idyllic Madh, Gorai and Uttan belt in the north-western part of Mumbai, largely falling under CRZ-I and III, have already seen limited development. So have the areas around the city’s coastline, especially in the western suburbs.
“How can areas, which have already been developed, be marked as environmental? The CRZ line was imposed on developed land in many cases. In fact, there are even cases of towers that have come up in CRZ areas. Surely, such areas must not be tagged environmental or it will result in a large-scale number jugglery,” said Pankaj Joshi, the executive director of Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI).
According to Ramanath Jha, officer-on-special duty, development plan revision, these areas anyway have restricted development.
“Even if these areas have seen development, CRZ restrictions will mean there is very limited development. It will not see any large-scale development, like other areas,” said Jha.
Many are also insisting that the civic body must do more than simply re-categorise these areas.
“We need a better regulatory framework to protect these areas and we shouldn’t stop at drawing red lines. In fact, the time is right for adopting a more consolidated approach to environment, rather than freezing development or opening up all areas without any caution. We need to evolve a more delicately-formed way of using these areas,” said urbanist Prasad Shetty, also associate professor at the Borivli-based School of Environment and Architecture.