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Mumbai, where a ‘development plan for the future’ is stirring debate (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS mains Paper I; Geography)

The Maharashtra government has approved a new development plan for Mumbai, which will serve as the blueprint for the development of the country’s economic capital till 2034.

What is it?
According to Section 21 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966, every planning authority has to carry out a survey, prepare a land use map and prepare a draft development plan for the area within its jurisdiction and submit it to the State government for sanction. Mumbai’s last development plan was published in 1991 and a new plan for the next 20 years was to be published by 2014, but its first draft was released by the Brihan-mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) only in February 2015. The government scrapped it in April 2015, citing complaints of errors. A revised plan was submitted in May 2016. After it was vetted, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis signed off on the new plan on April 24, 2018.

Why is freeing up land an issue?
The proposals to unlock hitherto-untouchable land parcels have run into criticism from its drafting days. Buffer zones of mangroves, mudflats and creeks were designated as No Development Zones in the 1991 plan, but the authorities have earmarked 2,100 hectares of such land for affordable housing. The logic: these zones were not supposed to be locked away forever. Another 330 hectares of saltpan lands will be diverted from the Mumbai Port Trust’s reserves. The Aarey Colony remains a green zone, but 300 acres has been set aside for a Metro Rail car shed, a second zoo and the rehabilitation of tribals. Besides, 14.96 sq. km. of virgin land (mangroves) has been included as Natural Areas, which will be left untouched.

Is it achievable?
The BMC has set aside Rs. 2,000 crore in its annual budget for the implementation of the plan this year. The government has hiked Floor Space Index (FSI) for Mumbai. The FSI is the ratio of construction allowed on a plot to the size of the plot. The FSI for the island city has been increased from 2 to 3, while that for the suburbs has been kept at 2.5. The State has announced 15% free FSI for redevelopment of private buildings and raised the FSI for commercial development to 5 from the existing 2.5 to spur economic activity. Citizens now have the choice to design their houses as long as they do not disturb the structural elements or plumbing systems.

What will be difficult?
The BMC believes the plan makes provision for 8 million jobs and 1 million affordable homes, but experts are not sure. Land acquisition will be the biggest hurdle: the BMC will need Rs. 14 lakh crore to implement the plan, with land costs included. Since it does not want to shell out such huge sums, it is betting on a policy that is dependent on private players to acquire any reserved land, clear it of encroachment, develop and hand it over to the BMC in lieu of construction rights and incentives. But the process is known to take very long.

Will it ease civic woes?
Despite Mumbai’s huge population, the total area under housing is just about 22% and the city’s planners want to make that 50%. The area reserved per capita for open spaces, educational institutions and offices will increase, but is still woefully short of international norms. In order to add to the existing open spaces, a 300-acre garden will be developed on reclaimed land at Cuffe Parade on the lines of New York’s Central Park. Another such garden will be developed by the Mumbai Port Trust at Sewree.

What’s in store?
The 1991 plan saw only around 20% implementation. This time, to improve the implementation rate, the BMC has conceived four 5-year plans with amounts to be set aside in every budget. In fact, the plan will act as the guiding document for making budgetary provisions and an implementation cell will be tasked with tracking progress.

(Adapted from The Hindu)

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