The state government’s ambitious rental housing scheme that aims at creating five lakh homes in the next five years, largely at the outskirts of Mumbai, is in trouble with the environment panel.
The chairperson of the state environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA), a panel that scrutinises all mega infrastructure and construction projects assessing their environmental repercussions, has written to the state’s urban development department (UDD) to review the rental housing policy, as it was not sustainable.
Dr Asoke Basak, the chairperson of SEIAA, in his letter to UDD last month, expressed concern over the policy as it envisaged construction of huge rental townships without ensuring parallel infrastructure. He has asked the government to review the granting of floor space index (FSI) of 4 to such projects, as it was not sustainable unless offset infrastructure like internal roads, sewer lines and water supply was completed on time.
“The SEIAA chairperson has written to the UDD to review the policy as the absence of offset infrastructure could affect the ecology of the entire area. Ideally, the environment committee should not question government policy, but it can make norms stringent to grant clearance,” said a senior official in the UDD.
Basak told HT he did not want to comment. He did admit though that the authority headed by him had cleared two rental housing projects and kept the rest in abeyance. The SEIAA and the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC), a recommendation panel that first scrutinises such projects, have expressed concern that without the timely completion of infrastructure in such townships, the 160 sq feet rental homes would become vertical slums.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the agency implementing the project, was looking at rental homes as an affordable housing option for the poor. In 2008, the UDD, to facilitate rental housing, amended its development control norms to allow FSI of 3 in the city and its suburbs and 4 in MMR to developers as incentive.
The policy states that such complexes should have all infrastructure in place and even collects a fee from developers for this. “We have collected Rs 1,000 crore for the same, so infrastructure will not be ignored. There is no issue with the policy,” said SVR Srinivasan, additional metropolitan commissioner of MMRDA. He added that there was always scope for improvement and the MMRDA would look into these concerns.
“Our clearances were given after stipulating various conditions for infrastructure,’’ said PA Hakeem, SEAC chairperson.