Redefine role of SRA in Mumbai: Experts submit action plan to CM Uddhav Thackeray

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Published on Aug 28, 2020 01:16 AM IST
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The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the stark realities of high-density and unaffordable housing in Mumbai. To address these issues, noted experts have submitted an action plan to the state government to find a solution to the problem of housing for slum-dwellers, low and middle-income groups, single women, migrants and gaothans/koliwada in Mumbai. The recommendations are part of the ‘Resurrecting Mumbai’ report in which 24 academicians have targeted issues of transport, housing, health, education and economy.

The report, which has been submitted to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, will be released on Friday. In it, experts have suggested redefining the role of the slum rehabilitation authority (SRA), wherein it fulfills its first objective of undertaking comprehensive planning of slum land by modifying development control regulations to enable the production of affordable housing through the slum redevelopment route. Experts believe that SRA is failing in its current role. In their report, they emphasise that any land which is currently occupied by slums should be reserved for affordable housing only.

Dr Amita Bhide, dean and professor, school of habitat studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said, “SRA today is not a public institution which people can approach. It is acting only as a liaison. Even the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) is not taking the lead in its central role for the provision of affordable housing. The role of both these institutions needs to be looked at again.”

Other experts who looked at housing solutions for the report include senior urban planner Shirish Patel, senior architects PK Das and Neera Adarkar, and Gautam Chatterjee, chairman of the Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority.

The experts have suggested that Mhada take an active role in constructing social rental housing. The report stresses on density-based development policy and abandoning the concept of free housing. With 31,700 people per sqkm, Mumbai is the second densest city in the world after Bangladesh’s Dhaka.

“The government has to play an active role in social rental housing. It needs to be subsidised and looked at as a social welfare program. We need a comprehensive policy to create affordable housing stock in the city,” said Das.

The report further mentions that the government must consider a cafeteria approach while looking at the rehabilitation of slum-dwellers.

“These could include rental housing, in-situ development, or even the option of buying extra space. Slum-dwellers need to be empowered and included in the decision making,” the report accessed by HT states.

Prachi Merchant, urban planner and convenor for the project said, “The whole idea was to look at providing an action plan that can be implemented by the state government. We provided an outline of issues that the experts deliberated on.”

The contributing experts have emphasised on “inclusivity” as a concept and also suggested formation of a “sectoral task force of experts” in Mumbai, who will help in strategic planning for the city. “This will put into momentum a participatory process of governance, which will help to initiate policy reforms, flagging governance issues and finally, in the formulation of new and disruptive ideas for the new normal,” the report states.

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