Plan C | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Plan C

A blueprint submitted by a think tank to the government in July aims to redevelop C ward, the city’s most congested area, and serve as a template for the development of other localities. Aarefa Johari writes.

mumbai Updated: Dec 02, 2012 00:31 IST
Aarefa Johari

Living in Bhuleshwar is, for most residents, a chaotic experience. It involves negotiating swarms of traders, shoppers, cars, vans and labourers who share space on narrow streets; living as tenants in cramped rooms in old, crumbly buildings; quarrelling with landlords about maintaining the structure and sanitation of those buildings and travelling long distances to enjoy some open space and fresh air.

The same is true for thousands of people living in Null Bazaar, Chira Bazaar, Kalbadevi and several other pockets that fall in C-ward, one of Mumbai’s most congested wards that also houses some of its oldest and most dilapidated buildings.

But a group of urban planners now have a vision for the ward — one that sees its inhabitants enjoying new, spacious buildings, wider roads and accessible schools, parks and gardens. This vision is part of a study on C-ward conducted from 2009 to July 2012 by the Mumbai Transformation Support Unit, a think tank for urban planning and policy set up by the state government in 2005.

While this study is part of the think tank’s larger project titled ‘Concept Plan for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region’, the organisation chose to focus on C-ward because of some worrying factors that distinguish it from the rest of the city.

It is the only slum-free ward in Mumbai, yet it has — along with B-ward — the highest number of buildings in need of reconstruction. At the same time, the ward has the least number of buildings on the state government and civic body’s list of structures that are to be redeveloped.

Since most buildings in C-ward are cessed properties, running on the old system of nominal rent, redeveloping even a small group of buildings involves the complex task of getting 70% of tenants and all landlords to agree.

Moreover, the most populated areas in C-ward have no open spaces for residents, no public toilets for women, no fire station and just a handful of civic schools and health centres.

Taking note of these problems, planners at the think tank drew up a list of recommendations for the planning of C-ward through cluster development. Their model of cluster development, they feel, is an improvement on the government’s model announced two years ago. Unlike the government’s scheme, which requires a cluster to have a minimum area of one acre, the plan proposes dividing C-ward into seven or eight larger clusters of at least 25 acres each. The clusters can then be planned holistically, keeping in mind provisions for open spaces, parking, schools, pedestrian zones and sewage treatment proportionate to the demography. (See The think tank’s proposal for more details.)

The think tank presented its proposed plan for C-ward to the state government’s principal secretary for housing in July. It is still awaiting a response.

“We want the government to take up the planned development of C-ward as a pilot project,” says Sulakshana Mahajan, a senior consultant for urban planning at the think tank. “Such a plan can then be implemented in other parts of the city if the government includes it in the Development Plan (DP) for 2014-2034 on time. Focusing just on acquiring floor space index and redeveloping small plots of land into towers will only add to the congestion.”

But other urban planners agree believe clustering of these larger zones has to be carefully thought out. “C-ward is a complex area with a variety of residential, commercial and religious spaces and complicated ownerships of land,” says Rohan Shivkumar, deputy director of Juhu’s Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture, which helped the think tank conduct part of its C-ward research. “Clusters have to be drawn based on the specific needs and mandates of the people in these areas.”

Urban planner Pankaj Joshi adds, “The state government has a responsibility to frame policy guidelines for the city after taking various such projects and proposed plans into account.”