How can the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), one of the world’s largest urban zones, be developed over the next 40 years? The state government hopes to answer this question with the help of Singaporean consultants Surbana International, which will draw up a concept plan for the growth of the city and its vast hinterland, which is home to 19 million people.
Surbana, hired last year, will submit its plan by July 2011. It will present a short-term plan with a 2032 deadline and a long-term plan with a 2052 deadline. Surbana will take into account land use, housing patterns and transport links to conceive the city’s growth curve.
The state will pick one of the options or a mix of those offered by Surbana. These include developing Mumbai as a ‘city of cities’ with five growth centres in the MMR, a ‘city of connections’ with interconnected transport corridors and a ‘city of islands’ with reclaimed land linking the city to the mainland.
The state hopes to extend MMR to a larger urban zone that would span the Pune-Nashik belt. This zone will be serviced by transit corridors such as the Metro and high-speed highways and will have smaller growth centres. Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority is already building a multi-modal Virar-Alibaug transit corridor.
Three growth centres may be planned at Kalyan, Ulhasnagar and Panvel.
“The main concern is the land crunch. Surbana suggested land reclamation. Planners feel that, if done scientifically, it is feasible,” said an official present at a meeting between state officials and Surbana.
Chavan said Mumbai needed a land bank for affordable housing but reclamation posed legal and environmental concerns. “The state has kept the reclamation option open. Surbana presented a technically and financially viable option,” said Mumbai Transformation Support Unit Project Director U.P.S. Madan.
The green lobby, however, saw red at the suggestion. “Do we have the infrastructure to carry out reclamation in the way that Singapore or Hong Kong did, and in a transparent manner?” said environmentalist Rishi Aggarwal. He said serious public debate should precede any attempt to reclaim land.