After a three-decade impasse with the Centre, the state on Friday took its first step towards opening up 5,300 acres of salt pan land, one of the largest surplus land parcels in Mumbai.
The state’s revenue department has issued a GR asking the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to prepare a master plan for development of the salt pan land, which is five times the size of erstwhile mill land, in coordination with the civic body and other departments such as urban development, environment and housing. Also, a nine-member high-powered committee, headed by chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya, has been set up to supervise the work on the plan.
The state has nearly 13,000 acres of salt pan land, with 5,300 acres in Mumbai, followed by around 2,000 acres in Vasai and 2,000 acres in Palghar district. A majority of this land is in the city’s eastern stretches in Trombay, Mankhurd-Chembur and Mulund. If the plan goes through, the freed up land could be made available for mass housing projects, slum rehabilitation and infrastructure development. For the state government, which has been criticised for favouring developers during the opening up of the mill land, this could prove to be a chance to set things right.
The government resolution states: “The government needs to plan for the city’s economic and social development, along with environment and as such possible uses and utilisation of salt pan lands in the city has to be carried out.”
With real estate developers eyeing the land, activists, urban planners and environmentalists have been urging the government to exercise caution and complete transparency when the land is opened up.
The ownership of the land has been contested for more than three decades, with the last suggestion coming from the UPA-I government to share the land on a 50:50 basis between the state and the Centre. The new-BJP led Central government, however, is reconsidering the issue and is in favour of opening it up for development. The state, meanwhile, wants affordable housing, slum rehabilitation schemes, citizen amenities and open spaces to top the priority list.
According to the resolution, the first task in the creation of the master plan will be classification of the existing land into two broad categories -- land that has been encroached upon and plots that have third party interests vis-a-vis tenanacies. The master plan will also suggest amendment to laws so no-development zones can be dereserved. The state hopes to carve out land which does not have third party interests and will not be impacted by coastal regulation zone rules for affordable housing projects. The master plan will also outline encroached upon lands of the state and of the Centre and suggest slum rehabilitation schemes on it.