A controversial beautification scheme that involves installing uniform street furniture on roads across the city was sanctioned by Mumbai municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar on Saturday.
Under this plan, private builders and developers will be allowed to install street furniture on specific streets, beautifying the city and installing better infrastructure for pedestrians. In exchange, the developers will get advertising rights on that furniture, with 10 per cent of the proceeds accruing to the BMC.
The Shiv Sena-controlled corporation had initially said it would scrap the project unless the BMC’s share was increased to 40%, but, with an eye on the upcoming civic elections, has now sanctioned the plan.
“We have decided to implement the project across the city, except in areas that have heritage significance, since the Mumbai Heritage Conservation committee had expressed some reservations about implementing this plan in such areas,” Kumar said.
The plan will begin with three-month pilot projects, but developers will eventually get rights over their streets and street furniture for 20 years.
The Sena’s about-turn on the policy — and the 20-year clause — now has the opposition in the BMC seething, since the Sena had itself earlier expressed concern over the low gains for the BMC and the alleged corruption in the manner in which these zones are being allocated to private agencies.
“The Sena needs to explain its drastic u-turn on the subject,” said senior Congress corporator Sameer Desai.
Seeking to explain the about-turn, standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale said: “We had argued for 40 per cent of the revenue, but most of the agencies said they would not find the project feasible if we demanded such a large share.”
The idea also is not revenue, Gupta added, but utility. “We will ensure that these agencies do not unnecessarily clutter the roads,” he added.
Sena sources said the party had initially also demanded that the 20-year period be shortened to eight or 10 years. Gupta denied this.