Poor planning has cost Mumbai its open spaces, eco-sensitive land

  • Kunal Purohit, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 03, 2016 00:56 IST

The failure of city authorities to create affordable homes and implement the development plan (DP) has meant that ecologically sensitive land meant for open spaces is teeming with slums.

Incidentally, the areas where the most earmarked land has been lost are also areas with maximum population living in slums. This correlation, planners believe, shows the urban poor are often the worst-hit, first by the lack of affordable homes and then, by having no access to public amenities. For instance, P North ward, which includes areas like Malvani and Malad West, had the largest DP-marked spaces reserved for amenities occupied by slums at 164 hectares. Incidentally, P North also has the most area under slums, nearly 400 hectares.

Similarly, the S ward, which has the third-largest area occupied by slums (382 hectares), has also lost 117 hectares of amenity spaces.

The survey, carried out by the slum rehabilitation authority (SRA), looked at three different categories — open spaces, No Development Zones (NDZ) as well as areas under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ). All the three saw significant land occupied — 345 hectares of open spaces plots, 368 hectares of NDZ lands and 158 hectares of CRZ-affected land. The survey also found how the city had 3,293 slum clusters, occupying over 3,645 hectares of land, with the biggest slums being found in the P North ward, followed by the L ward, with areas like Kurla and Andheri East.

No matter how you look at it, the city loses either way, said urban planners and experts. Around 42% of the city lives in only 8% of the city’s area. This means the city is losing out on amenity space critical for its existence. An urgent need, experts said, is to re-look at the strategies the city employs to create cheaper homes and ensure the city gets more amenity spaces.

For instance, officials quote the Bombay high court’s order, staying all redevelopment of slums that have come up on plots marked for open spaces. The order has created an impasse where no meaningful solutions have emerged on how to resettle slums and also ensure the amenity is not lost.

According to Dr Amita Bhide, Dean of School of Habitat Studies, the data calls for more informed negotiations on how to make the situation a win-win for the inhabitant as well as the city at large.

“Solutions are possible. For us to figure out the possible forms of resettlement, we need to involve stakeholders like the slum dwellers, and evolve various strategies. One could be that we prioritise these reservations — implement the ones which are urgent in nature, put the rest for later,” she said. SRA chief Aseem Gupta said the body will use the data for better policy-making. “The data reflects failures both, before making the DP, since many of these slums may have existed before the 1991 DP came into effect. But we need to look towards more pragmatic solutions.”

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