If the civic corporation has its way, the 6,000 acres of salt pans that border most of the city’s eastern coastline — few of the last open spaces left in the city — will make way for residential and commercial complexes.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is drawing up a revised Development Plan — a blueprint for the city’s development, which determines the use of land — for Mumbai for the period 2014-2034, in which it has indicated that it wants to utilise salt-pan land for development.
Currently, they are no-development zones. The idea is outlined in the brief the civic body has prepared for consultants, who will help the BMC chalk out the plan.
“Nothing has been finalised,” said Ashok Shintre, chief engineer, development plan.
The state and builders have been lobbying for permission from the Centre — which controls development in coastal areas — to build on salt-pan land, but so far the central government has not obliged.
By marking out these areas for development, the BMC is throwing its weight behind the influential builder lobby. Once the plan’s in place, it will make for a stronger case with the Centre.
Much of the salt-pan land is held by private firms or individuals on lease right from the British era. Experts say construction on salt-pan land will heighten the risk of floods.
“Opening up salt pans and no-development zones is a bad idea as these act as natural buffers. They absorb water during heavy rains, preventing it from entering the city,” said urban planner Chandrashekar Prabhu.
“It’s a suicidal attempt as they [salt pans] are the balancing reservoir of sea-level rise. Any move to disturb it will be disastrous for the city,” said environmentalist Bittu Sehgal.
The real estate sector sees it differently. “The move will decongest the city and also ease the city’s housing scarcity,” said Anuj Puri, chairman of Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj, a real estate consultancy firm.