Mumbai’s draft development plan (DP) may have been prepared before citizens could offer their suggestions. Documents accessed under the Right to Information Act revealed the private consultant appointed to prepare the DP, Egis Geoplan, had written to the civic body in January last year stating they had already submitted the DP plans, just three days after public consultations began.
Starting January 7 last year, the civic body had held workshops for a little more than a month with citizen groups to solicit their views on how the city’s DP must be shaped. These workshops were held on specific issues such as health, housing, education, gender sensitisation, gaothans and koliwadas, among others. These inputs, which were based on the BMC’s preparatory studies report, were supposed to help the civic body make its DP more inclusive.
However, various NGOs that participated in the consultations have, after studying the draft DP the civic body published in February, protested that the BMC had not incorporated suggestions made by them in these workshops held last year.
Documents obtained by the urban design research institute (UDRI), revealed the consultant on January 28, 2014 had written to the chief engineer of the DP department, stating the ‘Task 6: Draft Proposed Land Use Plan and FSI maps, has been submitted to the MCGM on 10th January, 2014.” The consultant’s letter, addressed to the chief engineer of the DP department, goes on to demand the payment for the task.
The BMC later goes on to partially accept this demand and agrees to release half the amount. So was the BMC paying lip service for citizen consultation by holding these workshops? VK Phatak, chief advisor on the DP to the BMC, dismissed such suspicions and said, “At the time of the consultations, no DP, Development Control Rules (DCRs) were ready.” BMC chief Sitaram Kunte, despite repeated text messages, refused to comment on the issue.
Pankaj Joshi, executive director, UDRI, said the civic body must clarify on the issue. “If the consultants are submitting the draft DP maps in January itself, the BMC must clarify the revisions it made to these maps after the inputs it received from the citizen consultations.”