Citizens' Issues
Former civic chief: Government nod for chawl redevelopment in Mumbai

Girish Gokhale says drive will cover 223 acres, beginning with Girgaum in central Mumbai

The state government has given its nod for a chawl redevelopment drive in Mumbai, former municipal commissioner Girish Gokhale said on Thursday.

"Two major problems which the government has failed to tackle are slum proliferation and the numerous dilapidated chawls where the majority of Mumbaikars live," Mr Gokhale said. The redevelopment drive will cover 223 acres in the city and the initial survey will be conducted over an area of 30 acres in Girgaum soon, he said. Mr Gokhale is a member of the organisation that is spearheading the drive.

He was speaking at a conference on 'Use of Land Resources in Economic Development of Maharashtra'. The conference focused on land development strategies to maximise economic development and improving the quality of life of city dwellers across the state. Chhagan Bhujbal, minister of state for public works and tourism, inaugurated the programme.

Calling for an overhaul of the development strategies, Mr Gokhale pointed out the need for constant redevelopment of old structures, as land is finite in the island city and there is hardly any place left for fresh development. In this respect, one thing that the government must look into is the FSI issue, because redevelopment and new projects will consume a lot of FSI.

He explained that the government must look for cross-subsidies for redevelopment and rehabilitation as such a Herculean effort would require a huge sum that is beyond the capacity of government funding. Mr Gokhale's remark is pertinent, in view of the government's hesitancy on the matter of extra FSI of 0.33 and the stay on extra FSI for public parking lots in the city.

Mr Bhujbal and Mahesh Zagade, municipal commissioner of Pune, also agreed that slum rehabilitation was a major challenge. Mr Zagade said that if solid waste could be dealt with more effectively, the dump yards freed also could be used for rehabilitation projects.

Mr Gokhale said public transport must be developed and promoted to reduce traffic congestion and cope up with the shortage of parking space. He gave an example of 70-storey buildings in London that provided parking spaces strictly only for the handicapped and senior citizens.

About the proliferation of slums, he said, "The city's development planning has gone astray". Recounted experiences from his tenure as municipal commissioner, Mr Gokhale said, in the early 90s, the government ordered that if new shanties cropped up, the assistant commissioner in charge of the particular ward and head inspector of the police station would be held responsible and they would be suspended. "But when some new slums appeared in Dahisar, the chief minister prevented me from doing exactly what he had recommended. Today, the proliferation of slums has reached alarming levels, and we have failed to do anything to stop it."

"I don't understand why we have to lag at least 50 years behind the rest of the world, when Mumbai is the commercial capital of India. We don't lack resources, but there is no political will to make it a world class city that can attract foreign investors," he said.

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