What went wrong with the Mumbai Development Plan? - II
With a lot of thought, having been given in formulating the DP-2034, why was it dumped? Should it be dumped? The second of the two part series
In order to execute a proper Development Plan, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) also known as BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) encouraged people’s participation by having non-governmental organisations (NGOs) conduct thematic workshops and deliberate specific issues. Infrastructure facility to hold these workshops was provided by MCGM. The themes covered 15 areas: transport, simplification of development control regulation (DCR), education, environment and sustainable city, informal housing, urban form, water, Gaothans, Koliwadas & Adivasi padas, gender sensitisation, solid waste disposal and wastewater management, informal sector, physical infrastructure, formal housing, health and digital inclusion.
While every thematic workshop was well attended and subjects well discussed, it was the workshops covering the themes on informal housing, Gaothans, Koliwadas & Adivasipadas that were packed to the brim with hardly any space to even enter the large conference hall of MCGM’s F-South Ward office. This indicated that people residing in these places felt that they have not been included in the planning processes thus far and did not want their future jeopardised. Notings of the deliberations were not only made by the team of planners from the Planning Cell of MCGM but were also videographed. Written notes were also accepted by the Planning Cell. Based on these thematic workshop notings, videos, written notes from NGOs and citizens, detailed presentations were made by MCGM at respective ward offices to elicit further suggestions at local levels. Thereafter the actual preparations of documents and maps were taken in hand and published in the present form for obtaining Suggestions and Objections.
This was a laudable approach, perhaps for the first time in India. But then why has the DP-2034 been “dumped” by the Maharashtra government? The State Government has directed MCGM to revise the documents, bring out an error-free DP within four months and invite suggestions and objections from citizens within 60 days thereafter.
Some groups have apprehensions about MCGM being able to accomplish this task in four months. Lest the ‘Revised’ DP-2034 six months hence is not on the lines of the one (DP-2034), let us first examine objectives of the Plan and then look at kinds of errors and steps of correcting and monitoring.
Sitaram Kunte, the erstwhile, Municipal Commissioner of MCGM went on to say that the Plan prepared by the Planning Cell was not deterministic and prescriptive. It envisaged to be a broad framework within which “a Competitive, Inclusive and Sustainable” growth takes place. A flexible land use zoning allowing mixed use development incorporating environmental safeguards was stated to have been followed. Although the Commissioner had said that the Plan was “not deterministic and prescriptive” Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966 (MR&TP Act) has no place for such looseness. The DP-2034/DCR-2034/Maps become the documents to be followed. Therefore, it is important to eliminate each and every error to prevent an unscrupulous implementing officer taking advantage of the error.
As the DP is seen as Broad Framework, it was proposed to be followed by detailed Local Area Plan. It acknowledges the need of capacity building to carry out local area plans like those of large Slum Settlements and Heritage Precincts possibly involving detailed planning and regulations. The currently published DP does not include the Local Area Plan.
There is a paradigm shift in floor space index (FSI) regimen. While there are other salient features related to FSI that can be commented upon, the important one definitely needs mention here. “FSI is not seen as instrument of limiting growth and density but as an outer envelope of built-space that responds to consumed FSI and location and accessibility attributes of sites. Transit oriented development (TOD) has been proposed around important transit nodes.”
While TOD is a right approach in planning development of areas, which are virgin or semi-virgin or generally of moderate densities, it needs to be debated whether it is appropriate to follow for areas that have densities far exceeding densities found in any of the cities world over, even while those cities which underwent major transformations. Considering the linearity of the city and the existing and proposed public transit capacities planned through upgraded suburban railway system and proposed Metro Rail network falling significantly short of the existing overload, only a dispersed Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) can provide solution and hence the concept of TOD needs to be seen in proper perspective. BRTS does not appear as a planned mass rapid transit facility in the DP other than by inference where roads wider than 36.6 M have been optionally stated to have ‘exclusive bus lane’. 
A full-fledged debate on TOD, Suburban Rail System, the Metro Rail System and the Bus Rapid Transit System needs to be carried out. Considering that the current state is most unlikely to change for the next decade and a half, the FSI based on TOD is quite in order. Point to remember is that FSI definition has been substantially simplified. All built areas having a roof cover will be included in the computation of built FSI. Also, depending upon feasibility of development, a plot may not be fully developed but none the less holds the potential. With restrictive FSI and add on exceptions, many plots have far exceeded the FSIs mentioned in the DP-2034. By becoming less restrictive, the notional shortage that is responsible for unrealistic high realty prices will cease to operate and a demand supply will determine prices, it is envisaged.
Unlike the earlier DP/DCR, the transfer of development rights (TDR) shall be based in inverse proportions to the prevailing Ready Reckoner prices for transfers of those from originating zone to those of receiving zone. This is also likely to prevent speculative transactions to raise realty prices.
The MCGM states that DCR has been conceived not as a legal document but as an aid to the architects and developers to formulate their proposals. For the first time it covers specific allocation of space for footpaths in the right of way of a road, mandating minimum footpath width at the expense of giving lower priority to vehicle carriageways; barrier free movement for physically challenged and environmental sustainability by measures such as rainwater harvesting, recycling of grey water. It is heartening to know that the definition of FSI contains no exemptions or exceptions of built areas. All areas, which have a roof cover is to be included, leaving very little scope to mandarins of FSI to bypass the limits prescribed. The DCR retains the FSI incentives in the cases of slum rehabilitation and redevelopment of cessed buildings. As and when detailed local area development plans are undertaken, additions to the Special DCR will be take place. To begin with all developments will be subject to the whole DCR comprising of General DCR (GDCR) and where applicable Special DCR (SDCR). 
Implementation of Plan – A plan that is conceived as a Broad Framework, will have to be periodically assessed for implementation and adjustments made considering ground reality. The Plan suggests the methods of monitoring and evaluation to be carried out every five years. This would mean that the Planning Cell of MCGM becomes a permanent feature, having persons constantly growing in experience. With a lot of thought having been given in formulating the DP-2034, why has it been “dumped”? Or can it ever be dumped? 
To begin with, the ELU Plans contained many errors. These seem to have continued on to PLU Plans. Unlike ELU Plans, the PLU Plans are the documents, which are to be used to actually develop. If erroneous from drafting perspective or from philosophy of urban planning, the implementing agencies are likely to use the situation to personal advantage. For example, if it has been decided a road has to pass through a housing complex, then the consequences, adverse, or otherwise, must be considered by the civic body and the housing complex affected by it. No such provision appears readily in the DC-2034 or DCR-2034 or the 168 maps.
There are certain basic issues on transportation. By merely providing for footpaths or exclusive bus lanes on roads with wider row, use of motorised vehicles do not decrease. Increasing use of motorized vehicles leads to environmental pollution, both air quality and noise. DP-2034/DCR not only did not consider this but goes on to provide for a coastal road, which in the present form is not tenable under Environment Protection Act 1986 and CRZ Notification 2011. However, there are methods which can be adopted so that it becomes a win-win situation. This needs to be taken up separately.
Each of the subjects deliberated upon at the Thematic Workshops of January 2014, covering transport, simplification of DCR, education, environment and sustainable city, informal housing, urban form, water, Gaothans, Koliwadas & Adivasi padas, gender sensitisation, solid waste disposal and wastewater management, informal sector, physical infrastructure, formal housing, health and digital inclusion will have to be revisited. Any plan that provides for improvement in quality of life and health of all must be pursued with priority. 
Thus, the DP-2034/DCR-2034/PLU Plans/FSI Plans need to be revisited and I feel that the “errors” will not be stupendous and can be rectified by the same team of MCGM Planning Cell and the Consultants in four months.
(Sudhir Badami an IIT Bombay graduate in Civil & Structural Engineering is a Transportation Analyst. He has extensively worked in planning and design of Civil and Structural Works including tower building structures, stacks and process columns as well as flexibility analysis of piping systems and challenging erection planning of structures and equipment. He was on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and MMRDA’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai.)
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