How much of Mumbai’s salt pans can be developed? Master plan in the works
The state government is looking to move ahead with its plan to open up salt pans in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) for development. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is looking for proposals from consultants to prepare a master plan for the salt pans.
The master plan would explore possibilities of developing salt pans across MMR and how much can be used for different purposes. Mumbai has close to 5,379 acres of salt pans, followed by 2,000 acres in Vasai and another 2,000 acres in Palghar. Of these 5,379 acres, the Mumbai Development Plan (DP) 2034 has proposed 1,781 acres (721 hectares) to be opened up for development. Salt pans in Mumbai will be considered in the first phase, while such lands in the remaining part of MMR will be part of the second phase of the master plan, according to information.
In 2015, the Maharashtra government had asked the MMRDA to prepare a master plan for MMR. Its initial survey of 2016 has revealed that barely 25 acres or 0.5% of the 5,379 acres in the city can be developed.
Further, its own 2016 report emphasizes on the importance of salt pans as a safeguard against floods in Mumbai.
However, senior officials from the town planning department said that there have been many amendments in government regulations post the survey. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests revised the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 and excluded salt pans from wetlands. The Centre also revised the Coastal Regulation Zone rules in January 2019.
“We have inputs from the DP 2034 also now. We will conduct a ground survey, taking mangroves into consideration,” said the official. He further said that the plan for Mumbai will be made in phase-1, post which salt pans in MMR will be looked at. The DP 2034 also earmarks 321 acres to be reserved for affordable housing.
In Mumbai, salt pans are in Wadala in central Mumbai; Ghatkopar, Turbhe, Kanjurmarg, Bhandup, Nahur and Mulund in the eastern suburbs; and Malvani, Dahisar in the western suburbs. The extended suburbs, such as Mira-Bhayander and Virar in Palghar district, which has seen a real-estate boom over the past two decades, also has salt pans.
Debi Goenka, from Conservation Action Trust, an NGO working for environmental causes, said the move will be disastrous for the city. He said, “It is absolutely not a good idea. It will only be a disaster. Since salt pans fall in the coastal regulation zone-1 category, no construction can be permitted here.”
Priya Kanchan, a Mumbai-based urban planner said, “The reason MMRDA considers this as an opportunity for development is because there has not been any research done on salt pans. The MMRDA should hire think tanks to first look at salt pans for environmental impacts.”