The 4.5-km stretch of Linking and SV Roads from Bandra to Santacruz could become an even more congested maze and squeeze long-time residents out of their homes if the draft development plan for Mumbai goes through unchanged.
Under the draft, this stretch has been marked commercial-residential (CR) under transit-oriented development (TOD). This means that for 300 metres on either side of the road, there can be buildings that are 80% commercial holdings with residential spaces reduced to 20%. At present, just the buildings fronting the road house commercial enterprises with most of the buildings behind them being residential.
Now when redevelopment happens – and happen it will as half of the buildings on this stretch are old structures being eyed by builders – the area will become 80% commercial.
Most of these areas are marked with a floor space index (FSI) of 4 and 5, which means the developers can construct almost five times the existing space of the buildings, while the infrastructure cannot even handle the present load.
Worryingly, the plan does not spell out how it proposes to deal with the congestion from the people spilling out from the metro, which is supposed to run underground along the stretch, or where autorickshaws and taxis and the huge number of vehicles in a commercial zone will park.
“The biggest worry for us is how the DP plans to decongest this area which is already overcrowded with people coming to Linking Road. Also with the limited commercial ventures like pubs, we are already harrowed. With so many additional features, like metro underground stops proposed on Linking Road, how is the dispersal of people going to happen. It will disturb the character of the neighbourhood,” said Manuela Saldanah, who heads the Revival Citizens group, ALM 154, which has been fighting against the nuisance caused by pubs in the area.
Residents also feel that the high FSI should come with provision for more schools, colleges, dispensaries, hospitals and recreation spaces. “FSI should support public services. Also if TOD zones are meant to be around transport modes, then get them to become no-parking zones,” said Vidya Vaidya, Member of the H-West residents trust.
Urban planners agree with upset residents. “It is ridiculous that a high density residential zone is suddenly marked as CR. It will become predominantly commercial with no thought given to dispersal of people, or parking. People who are already troubled because of commercial establishments being in the centre of residential complexes will face greater trouble,” said Pankaj Joshi, director of the urban development research institute (UDRI).
Nitin Gadekar from Khar has alleged that the DP is a planned move to shift the middle and upper middle class out of these areas and make it a rich business class zone. “ Imagine the social impact of having a high business class building with residents on the top. First when it comes to redevelopment, the project will become unfeasible considering that a part of the FSI will have to be purchased from the government. Currently, commercial establishments are not able to break even in these areas due to high rent, so how is this 80% commercial scheme going to work,” asks Gadekar.
The Mumbai Development Plan 2014-34, which has been put up for public scrutiny till April 24, proposes changes in the land use, zoning, floor space index (FSI) taking into account the requirements of the city in the next 20-years.