The whole approach to the Concept Plan appears to be non-inclusive, even while the planners keep harping about inclusive development. Prithviraj Chavan should put the Surbana proposal behind and initiate the preparation of a people-oriented development plan
On 4 March 2011, Surbana International, a Singapore-based urban planning consultancy unveiled "The Concept Plan for Mumbai 2052". The consultancy has drawn up the concept plan on the directions of the Government of Maharashtra and ideas provided by Bombay First. In a nutshell, it envisages a higher average floor space index (FSI) of 5 in the inner city, 3 for the suburbs and 3 in the 'hinterland'. It also envisages further concentration of the central business district by providing much more FSI of up to 14, starting with Nariman Point.
Lest the hype around the plan unveiled affects Prithviraj Chavan, the newly-appointed chief minister of Maharashtra, and his cabinet colleagues and they succumb to the "Vision 2052" scheme and decide to go ahead with it, I thought that I should let them know that the inhabitants of Mumbai have a vision and aspirations also that should be taken into consideration through public consultations, while evolving the new Concept Plan. Besides, the Concept Plan is not a "Vision", but merely a dream of some people. Mumbai is a part of Maharashtra and a part of India and despite the grandiose dream of some people, this fact cannot be overlooked. Mumbai cannot grow in isolation from the rest of the Indian nation.
In view of this, I felt that I should deal with this matter now, rather than listing the agenda for the chief minister for the next 100 days, lest the government take a thoughtless decision on the matter.
To understand what all those FSI numbers mean, we need to know the prevailing state of affairs. As of today, the island city (72 sq km) has an FSI of 1.33 and suburban Mumbai (394 sq km) 1.0. What is more important is the density of Mumbai's people and the quality of life related to that. Going by the 2001 census, the island city has a density of about 460 persons per hectare (one hectare is the area enclosed in a square of 100metres x 100metres) and in suburban Mumbai it is about 220 persons per hectare (p/Ha). The island city has practically no open spaces-or lung spaces as they are more popularly called-and the suburban area is no better except for Borivli National Park, the salt pan lands and some mangrove stretches.
In the island city, the population has been stable for quite some time now. The 2011 census figures are unlikely to show any significant increase or decrease, thereby the variation in density too is not going to be significant. If the provisional population of Mumbai in 2011 is about 145 lakh, as against 119 of 2001, we could conclude that practically all of 26 lakh were added in the suburbs in the last decade, from 86 lakh to 112 lakh, increasing the density to about 284 p/Ha. If we remove the 103 sq km of National Park area and another say 50 sq km of salt pans and mangroves, we would have a net inhabited area of 241 sq km that would mean a current density as high as 465 p/Ha in the suburbs of Mumbai. This is higher than the 460 in the island city.
We know that the real estate prices in the island city are skyrocketing, as also in the suburbs; they are more than the highest rates in other parts of India, with the exception of Delhi and Bengaluru.
The projected population of metropolitan Mumbai in 2052 is 450 lakh (45 million) while the 2001 population figure was 189 lakh. Out of 189 lakh, 119 lakh or about two-thirds is in Greater Mumbai alone. I am of the view that these figures are conservative; I expect we will touch these levels in the year 2031 itself. However, even going by the projection of the Government of Maharashtra, it is quite a population to manage. The density in Greater Mumbai would touch 490 p/Ha from 254 in 2001, and in the island city 530 p/Ha from the 2001 figure of 460. Urban metropolitan Mumbai will house 410 lakh people, of which 230 lakh would reside in Greater Mumbai. This is about 55%, a reduction from 67% in 2001. These figures are based on the continuation of existing FSI norms.
So, what are the implications of the FSI given in the Surbana proposal? Mumbai is already the densest city in the world; it has the least open public spaces for its inhabitants, with about 100 lakh living in slums. Public transport is totally inadequate, so much so that there are nearly 4,000 fatalities on the suburban railway system every year and about seven deaths on the roads daily, due to high-speed motoring, without adequate safety and convenient passage for pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles. The most vulnerable groups of citizens are pedestrians, the NMV users and railway commuters. The Concept Plan does not look into the needs of this vulnerable group.
Increasing the 'Inner city' FSI to 5 means a four-fold increase in the buildable area and increasing it to 3 for the suburbs means a three-fold increase in the habitable space. Making the FSI in Nariman Point and southern areas of the city, including defence areas, to 14, means a ten-fold increase, while bringing defence areas that were hitherto very low-density areas into actual usage. Even Hong Kong or New York with FSIs of 15 to 18 have densities barely touching 300 p/Ha.
Urban experts said that initially the densities will be increasing and then they will begin to drop. Perhaps that is what happened in New York and Hong Kong, but what were their base population and base densities? Does Mumbai compare anywhere near those? Also, is that what we want for our city? A city is made of people, its inhabitants, current as well as future. It is laudable that the government is seriously thinking of promoting development in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, but by developing Greater Mumbai in accordance with the proposed Concept Plan, it will negate every effort to make this a livable city. The city has to be livable for all of its inhabitants.
The premise on which the Concept Plan is proposed is that Mumbai's per capita income will be rising considerably and affordability will be prolific. Would that be true for the rest of the country or even those living in the slums? Would there be large enough numbers of people, migrating or otherwise, who can afford these highly-priced houses or office spaces to occupy large space and thereby achieve stable or even reduced densities? Or will more people with affordable incomes for smaller dwellings come in and greatly increase the density in the city further?
The experts from Singapore added another dimension to the Concept Plan, that is to carry out reclamation on the harbour side and build exclusive townships. Their logic is to make high-priced land available at low construction costs. Mumbai after all came into being through reclamation of the sea. What is forgotten is that it was the mudflats which were reclaimed in the late 18th and the 19th centuries, joining the seven islands in the island city. Those were the times when concepts of environment, ecology and project-affected persons were unheard of. Reclaiming land in dock areas is nothing short of realty driving the Concept Plan.
The whole approach to the Concept Plan appears to be non-inclusive, while the planners keep on harping on inclusive development. They have mentioned nothing of how they will cater to the present population, that too the 100 lakh slum dwellers. These are our people and the government as trustees of the people's welfare cannot abdicate its responsibility and adopt an exclusive development plan.
Thus, I will conclude this week by saying that the top most priority for Prithviraj Chavan should be to put the Surbana proposal behind and initiate the preparation of a people-oriented development plan. There are enough of us here with a vision for Mumbai that we can be proud of when it is implemented. This will take some time, but at least we will be able to make a livable and vibrant city of Mumbai for its current and future inhabitants.
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on the Government of Maharashtra's Steering Committee on Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) for Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS. He is also a member of the Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was a member of the Bombay High Court-appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He has also been an active campaigner against noise pollution for over a decade and he is a strong believer in a functioning democracy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The coal ministry had cancelled the allocation of two coking coal blocks having reserves of about 500 million tonnes in Jharkhand to RINL as the steel firm had difficulties in developing the blocks
New Delhi: The coal ministry has turned down the request of state-run Rashtriya Ispat Nigam (RINL) for swapping two of its coking coal blocks in Jharkhand with other reserves, reports PTI.
"As regards allocation of alternative coal block(s), there is no policy/guidelines for allocation of alternative coal block in lieu of surrendered coal block," the ministry said on its website.
RINL, whose two coking coal blocks in Jharkhand-Mahal allocated in 2005 and Tenughat-Jhirki allocated in 2008-were de-allocated by the coal ministry at the beginning of this month, had earlier requested permission to surrender these blocks in lieu of two alternative blocks in the region.
Instead, the coal ministry has asked the steel firm to apply afresh for coal blocks.
"RINL is at liberty to apply for blocks as and when applications for a fresh list of coal blocks (are invited)...
The request will be considered along with other applications, as received then, as per the... guidelines for allocation of coal blocks," the ministry said.
The coal ministry had cancelled the allocation of two coking coal blocks having reserves of about 500 million tonnes in Jharkhand to RINL as the steel firm had difficulties in developing the blocks.
As per the steel ministry, not only were the coal seams deep-seated and intermeshed with gaseous deposits, obstructions in the form of railway lines and nearby rivers also existed, the ministry had said.
The Mahal block has deposits of 258 million tonnes of coking coal, while the Tenughat-Jhirki block holds an estimated 215 million tonnes of coal.
It added that both blocks involved a high investment and production cost. Moreover, RINL has not met the milestones for developing the blocks.
Several deaths reported, more tsunamis expected; Tokyo stock market extends losses, Bank of Japan says it will do everything to ensure financial stability
TOKYO: A massive earthquake of 8.9 magnitude hit northeast Japan on Friday, unleashing a tsunami that swept away cars and threatened buildings along the coast near the epicentre. There were reports of injuries and fires and power was cut off in large parts of the capital city Tokyo, according to news reports.
Television pictures on the public broadcaster NHK showed cars, boats and even houses being carried away by the waters and a large ship swept away crashing into a breakwater in Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture.
The quake struck at 2.46PM (11.16AM India time) and was followed by powerful aftershocks that shook buildings violently. The US Geological Survey office verified a magnitude of 7.9 at a depth of 24 km located 130 km east of Sendai, on the main island of Honshu, and later upgraded the strength to a magnitude of 8.9. The area is 380 km northeast of Tokyo.
NHK also showed flames and black smoke billowing from a building in Odaiba, a Tokyo suburb, and bullet trains to the north of the country were halted. Smoke also poured out of an industrial area in Yokohama's Isogo area.
Japan's meteorological agency issued a tsunami warning for the entire Pacific coast of Japan. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami warning was in effect for Japan, Russia, Marcus Island and the Northern Marianas. A tsunami watch has been issued for Guam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and the US state of Hawaii.
"The building shook for what seemed a long time and many people in the newsroom grabbed their helmets and some got under their desks," a Reuters report quoted its correspondent Linda Sieg as saying. "It was probably the worst I have felt since I came to Japan more than 20 years ago."
The Tokyo stock market extended its losses after the quake was announced. The central bank said it would do everything to ensure financial stability.
Japan's northeast Pacific coast, called Sanriku, has suffered from quakes and tsunamis in the past and a 7.2 quake struck on Wednesday. In 1933, a magnitude 8.1 quake in the area killed more than 3,000 people. Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active areas. The country accounts for about 20% of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.
The Associated Press reports that 30 minutes after the quake, tall buildings were still swaying in Tokyo and mobile phone networks were not working. Japan's Coast Guard has set up a task force and officials are standing by for emergency contingencies, Coast Guard official Yosuke Oi said. "I'm afraid we'll soon find out about damages, since the quake was so strong," he said.
Passengers on a subway line in Tokyo screamed and grabbed other passengers' hands, Reuters news agency reports. The shaking was so bad it was hard to stand, said reporter Mariko Katsumura. Hundreds of office workers and shoppers spilled into Hitotsugi street, a shopping street in Akasaka in downtown Tokyo.
Related video link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598