The Maharashtra government had sanctioned 2,399 modifications to Mumbai's draft development plan when it was unveiled in April 2018. However, it appears that this was not enough to completely iron out the discrepancies from the document.
The development plan (DP) was meant to come into effect from Friday (22 June). However, media reports now say the plan may be kept in abeyance for two months, following demands from several quarters — including political frenemies and real estate bodies.
This has only further added to the delay in bringing into effect a crucial blueprint for the city's development.
Delay in formulation
The process of creating the plan began back in 2012. Back then, the civic body had attracted criticism for not taking into account the voices of the slum-dwellers, who form a large section of the population.
However, this was not the only problematic aspect of the document. The development plan at the time was riddled with errors — for instance, the iconic Jehangir Art Gallery was marked as a veterinary hospital and a heritage museum was marked as part of the recreational ground. More glaringly, some roads were shown to be ending in the sea.
Speaking to Firstpost, transport analyst and urban development expert Sudhir Badami recalled, "There were numerous errors which were made at that time. One instance was of the Babulnath Road in south Mumbai, which was incorrectly referred to as Walkeshwar Road. In some cases, heritage structures were marked in commercial development zones."
As a fallout of this, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in April 2015 appointed a committee headed by the chief secretary to 'review draft DP, suggestions and complaints, examine the faulty Existing Land Use, whether the process had been done appropriately and whether there is need to restart the process again if gross irregularities are seen.'
Subsequently, a revised plan was released in May 2016, and another panel was constituted to review suggestions and objections received in response to it.
Finally, on 26 April 2018, the state government unveiled the Development Plan after it got Fadnavis' assent. "A notification will be issued in the next 10 days. The new DP will be implemented one month after the notification is published," the state principal secretary had then said.
However, that was not to be. The blueprint was published in the official gazette nearly a month later, on 23 May, and it was to come into effect a month later, on 23 June.
Objections and criticisms
Errors in mentioning the land use in some places (like the ones mentioned above) were only a part of the problem. A report of the planning committee on the DP published by the BMC lays out in detail the nature of objections it received from citizens. The report noted that a majority of objections were over the imposing of reservations on particular plots. Some people suggested, or objected to, road widening, while some sought access to landlocked properties.
According to the report, 7,887 people were given a hearing by the BMC with respect to the objections raised by them. These included people from the civic body itself, other arms of the government, NGOs, VIPs and individual citizens, among others.
Badami pointed out that the original DP laid focus on "transit-oriented development", which meant higher FSI (Floor Space Index) being allowed around stations. This policy has been changed now, as per this report in The Indian Express.
However, he said, "There needs to be some thought given to affordability of the modes of transit. For instance, the high metro fares discourage people from using the service. On the other hand, people use local trains and BEST buses, despite the difficulties involved, because these are affordable."
Firstpost had earlier questioned the hike in FSI in the city — which will allow for higher structures to be built — and pointed out that the problem with housing in the city is not one of supply, but of affordability.
What is Mumbai's DP all about?
Every local authority in Maharashtra has to create a DP to create a blueprint for land use in its jurisdiction, according to Section 21 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966. The plan is to be implemented over a period of 20 years. The previous development plan for Mumbai was created in 1981 but was adopted much later in 1994. Thus, the new DP is meant to be applicable from 2014 to 2034.
Mumbai's DP assumes special importance because of its status as the country's financial capital, and because of the delicate balancing act that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has to do in the process. The civic body has to juggle numerous competing interests such as real estate, public transport, educational institutes, open spaces, etc — a task which is made more difficult by the fact that the city is land-starved. According to UN Habitat data, Mumbai is the second-most crowded city globally after Dhaka, with as many as 31,700 people on an average living in one square kilometre.