Following protests by citizens across Mumbai, the Maharashtra government was forced to announce that it will change the draft development plan (DP), which was in the midst of controversy owing to a large number of errors and also provisions that were being criticised by urban planners and citizen groups.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on April 21 announced that the controversial draft would be scrapped and t he Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) would be asked to prepare a new one in four months.
While addressing the postcabinet meeting press conference, Fadnavis was pretty clear that he wanted to junk the draft. The notification issued by the urban development department headed by him, however, is not as clear. The April 23 notification directs the BMC to examine the errors in the draft DP detail, correct the same and publish the draft for review by the citizens. It does not say whether the new proposals or concepts that have attracted criticism will be reviewed. This is where citizen groups and experts are wary of the state government’s intentions. They fear that the same draft will be presented in a new packaging by making some cosmetic changes.
The errors in the existing land use are just a part of the objections raised over the draft DP. The other aspects are probably more significant to the future of the city.
There could be a serious fallout of certain provisions such as increasing the floor space index (that allows vertical development) upto 8 in various parts of the city that are already congested.
Residents in areas such as Bandra or Andheri are wary of the concepts such as transit-oriented development and commercial-residential, where pure residential areas will need to have commercial structures too, if they are going in for redevelopment. The high floor space index (FSI) also comes at a very high premium, which means the real estate prices will keep increasing and there will be nothing such as affordable housing, which is what this city needs. Unfortunately, the draft DP did not bother to consider affordable housing as an element, which is a significant issue for more than half of the city’s population.
The government or BMC doesn’t want to discuss why they are keen to destruct the remaining few green patches that help the city breathe — Aarey Colony, mangroves and even salt pan lands. The draft has shown complete disregard for heritage structures, sites and precincts in the city. The authorities probably want to believe that Mumbai’s citizens want a hideous crowd of skyscrapers that have come up in central Mumbai or Sakinaka, instead of an area like Fort with elegant buildings and well-designed avenues.
Experts have also lamented that the draft DP completely neglects recommendations made during consultation with sectoral experts and institutions especially in health, education, livelihood, environment, governance, water and sanitation, informal sector, transportation and digital inclusion. Worse, two-thirds of Mumbai is not included in the draft DP provisions, as slums as well as areas under special planning authorities such as MMRDA (Dharavi, Wadala, Bandra- Kurla Complex, Seepz, Oshiwara, Bandra Reclamation and Backbay).
So far, there are little indications that these concerns will be seriously discussed and will be taken care of in the new draft. If the state government is going to be ambiguous, it won’t be a surprise what the civic officials will do. According to the information, the first thing the civic officials have resorted to after the CM’s announcement is to prepare a presentation on how the errors pointed out by the citizens, experts and media are not errors, but wrongful interpretation.
It is upto Fadnavis to prove that the directives issued by him are not reduced to a ploy to fool the citizens. As of now, the citizens are of the opinion that the draft DP is favourable to builders and not them. Overhauling it in the interest of the city is what they are expecting from the government. One hopes Fadnavis won’t disappoint the citizens now.