Had the BMC heeded the feedback it got from citizens and experts two years ago, Mumbai's draft development plan (DP) may not have invited such criticism.
Many believe the roots of the flawed DP lie in the equally flawed existing land use (ELU) maps, which the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) published in September 2012.
The maps were riddled with factual as well as conceptual errors – from not marking important city structures to marking them wrong, not mapping the city’s slums, Gaothans and Koliwadas, marking private open spaces as public ones, skipping the mention of heritage structures and claiming they will be included in the draft DP.
HT had, from September 2012, initiated a campaign to ensure the ELU was error-free. Responding to the series, the BMC opened maps for scrutiny and invited citizen feedback. However, of the more than 3,000-odd errors citizens reported, the civic body claimed only 21% were ‘actual’ errors.
A major discrepancy in the ELU map was the reduction in the city’s environmental features. The area occupied by wetlands and salt pans in the ELU was 4,259 hectares (Ha) less than that in the Maharashtra Wetland Atlas, a Union government document.When this was pointed out, the BMC kept mum.
The draft DP has opened up more than 6,000 hectares of land that earlier fell under the no-development zone (NDZ) land. “The BMC has refused to give a break-up of how and where has this land been opened up. Also, many instances of development planned on mangroves and salt pans are emerging, giving rise to doubts about the BMC’s intent,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director, UDRI.
The BMC also failed to link the marking of hawking zones with the preparation of the DP, said experts.
“The Street Vendors Act had made it clear the city’s hawkers were to be marked and shown on the city’s DP. We kept insisting the BMC synergise the DP with its plans to regulate hawkers, but they refused to listen to us,” said Haider Imam, from the All India Trade Union Congress.
The civic body’s list of hawking zones has drawn sharp reactions from residents across the city.
Dr Nandita Shah from Akshara, a women’s group, criticised the DP’s refusal to attend to feedback in strong words.
“The present version of the DP is a mockery of the fact that the BMC went through the charade of inviting all stakeholders, including women’s groups, in the planning stages. Women’s groups made several suggestions, all of which have been ignored.”
In its defence, the civic body’s report maintains that it has been very consultative in its process and tried to accommodate citizen voices even more than what the rules mandate it to. While that may be true, the suggestions don’t seem to have found place in the published blueprint.