More than 50 years after it was first introduced, Mumbai’s third development plan announced on Wednesday may have lost its relevance considering the chaotic manner in which the city has grown.
Experts say there is no concept of town planning and no uniformity in the skyline like in other global cities arbitrary development is allowed skyscrapers to come up on handkerchief-size plots and buildings permitted within kissing distance of each other.
On Wednesday, civic chief Ajoy Mehta admitted that barely 20% of Mumbai’s last DP of 1991 had been implemented. Since the past two decades, the government has only been tinkering with development control regulations to increase FSI as panacea for the city’s ills.
Housing activists say the last DP of 1991 was amended over 200 times even as changes to various housing policies accelerated the process of Mumbai’s “strangulation”. “The city has been destroyed at the altar of greed,” said former Mhada president and activist Chandrashekhar Prabhu.
Since the mid-1990s, barely 10% of the12 lakh slum families, including project-affected persons, have been rehabilitated in new homes. “At this pace, it will take another 250 years to rid Mumbai of slums,” said a member of the planning committee for the new DP. He said SRA projects have benefited builders more as some of the most expensive and luxury residential towers have come up as part of slum rehabilitation schemes.
“The DPs have produced no results because the diagnosis has been wrong and the government has never understood the problem,” said Prabhu, adding that all it had done was to tinker with FSI to help builders.
Conservation architect Pankaj Joshi said the DP’s main objective is to organise living, working and moving in the city in a cogent manner. “Earlier DPs had a poor track record when it came to implementation. They have been subverted and speculated upon for decades. Many reservations were changed or removed, FSI for redevelopment further relaxed, side margins and open space requirements also relaxed, health and safety of occupants ignored, just to increase the profits of the few,” he said.
Joshi said irrespective of certain ad-hoc policies, he hoped that the new DP will be implemented to greater extent. “This will ensure the urban poor and lower-income groups, who benefit from reservations the most, get better provision of amenities. It is vital for 80-85% of the population,’’ he said.
Former municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar said the city has grown without planning. “The government simply keeps tweaking policies in a knee-jerk reaction,” he said.
Former Mumbai metropolitan commissioner Dev Mehta said in the past not even 25% of DP was implemented. “Money is spent on pet schemes not included in the DP. Decisions like restricting private transport, action against encroachments and illegal constructions will never be taken. I wonder if the DP should be prepared at all.”