The first development plan for Mumbai, implemented in 1967, promised the city at least 2.03 crore square metres of open spaces.
In the last 20 years, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has managed to acquire only 23 lakh square metres of open spaces, a significant drop from the 62 lakh square metres it had acquired in 24 years, between 1967 and 1991.
The acquisition process has slowed down considerably.
“A lot of times, plots are encroached upon by slums and clearing the plot and offering slum dwellers alternate housing becomes difficult,” said an officer from the DP department. “In plots owned by private parties, it becomes difficult because a lot of times local politicians having interests delay acquisition.”
The city’s DP for the next 20 years, which will remain in force from 2014 to 2034, is up for revision and citizens want a greater say in formulating it so that the rate of acquiring open spaces speeds up.
A citizens’ group, called Mumbai Think Tank, has started holding meetings to build consensus on how to push for a more strategic role for citizens in the new DP.
With a mix of activists, environmentalists and urban planning experts, this group will list people’s expectations from the DP, and then approach the BMC with them.
Pankaj Joshi, from the Urban Design Research Institute, a member of the group said, “Citizens, who have suffered in their own lifetime because of the lack of implementation of important provisions of the last DP, are coming together. The idea is to ensure that the next generation doesn’t suffer in the same way.” Bandra Reclamation Residents Association’s Vidya Vaidya has also begun mobilising opinion among locals about the new DP.
“We have already distributed copies of the previous DP among local associations so that they can come up with suggestions for the revised DP,” Vaidya said. “We will then forward these to the civic authorities.”
With the BMC not having displayed the will to implement the DP, citizens are also questioning the importance of such a blueprint.
Vaidya, for instance, said these suggestions will be just half-measures. “The Development Control Regulations, which govern the implementation of the DP, itself creates so many loopholes that implementing the plan is next to impossible,” Vaidya said.
Joshi said implementing the last DP would not have been as beneficial for the city as it was intended to be because it had several weak links. “The civic body needs to broaden its horizons and get its priority areas right in the DP,” Joshi said.
DP officials, meanwhile, claim the new DP will have ample provisions for citizens’ suggestions. “We are in the process of finalising a consultant to revise the DP,” said an officer from the DP department requesting anonymity.
“The consultant will be instructed to consult citizens at every stage,” the officer added.