Lack of involvement of local civic officials, dependence on satellite mapping and other technologies, appointing international consultants and no accountability on the change of land use and reservations – these are a few of the reasons why Mumbai’s development plan (DP) was scrapped.
According to sources, a report submitted by state chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya has recommended that these factors be looked into, factual errors eliminated, and the changes made should be authenticated through a certification process by local officials.
The government had two options — to give more time to the committee to make suggestions to the DP or to scrap the plan altogether. The scathing observation made by the committee was the final nail in the coffin, forcing chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and his Cabinet to opt for the latter.
The civic body, however, had already started to feel the pressure — it received 25,000 letters from Mumbaiites, residents and politicians staged daily protests, and the media raised questions over the flaws in the proposed plan.
With the ruling BJP’s alliance partner Shiv Sena joining other parties in criticising the DP, the issue became a sticking point.
Realising that the issue could damage its chances in the Mumbai civic polls, the BJP decided to change its stand on the DP.
Fadnavis appointed a three-member committee headed by Kshatriya to look into the lacunae. The panel went through several complaints and newspaper articles highlighting the issues in the DP, especially the existing land use (ELU), reservation and floor space index (FSI), and found several errors.
For instance, in some places salt pan land, no-development zones, and mangroves are shown as development zones. Heritage buildings and shrines, including Haji Ali dargah, Jehangir Art Gallery, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj museum, don’t find a mention on the reserved list.
When civic officials could not give satisfactory explanations, the committee concluded the plan was made by changing the land use of several areas, sources said. “The report says there needs to be accountability if, for instance, there is a change in the existing reservation. In the current plan, no one is responsible,” a senior government official privy to the report said.
The official said Kshatriya had cited his own experience when he held the revenue department post and made the development plans for over 42,000 villages. While he took help of technology, everything marked on the map was certified by a local, who was accountable for any mistake.
The BMC chief may consult officials over the issues of high FSI, transit-oriented zone concept, multiple zoning such as commercial-residential areas, and get back to the CM. “But he may maintain status quo for now. The priority will be to clear factual errors,” the official said.