The Mumbai Development Plan (DP) 2034, an urban planning blueprint has been strongly opposed by citizens including city planners and even some politicians. Buildotech presents views of some of the prominent design professionals and their suggestions.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, which came up with the Mumbai Development Plan (DP) 2034 says it was made professionally to achieve the goals of growth, inclusiveness and sustainability. Whereas, architects and town planners have called the plan “irrelevant” to the needs and aspirations of Mumbai residents.
According to the critics, the recently scraped Mumbai Development Plan (DP) 2034 plan had ignored ground realities of the city. But, many also appreciated the new FSI rules proposed in DP to accommodate the expected increase in Mumbai’s population as both the earlier DPs failed to plan for development suitable to a growing population. As of now, the state government has asked for the revised development plan within four months taking into considerations all the ambiguities, incorrect data and other relevant details.
Need for liberal development plan
Despite the fact that the Mumbai DP 2034 offered some very sane and urgently needed changes, it ran into rough weather for two reasons. Its criticism for many “errors” and more importantly, opposition to its policy departures.” Pointing out that the cities of Hyderabad and Ahmedabad have benefited from liberal realty norms, President of CEPT (Center for Environmental Planning and Technology) University and Director at HCP Design Planning and Management Pvt. Ltd, Ahmedabad, Bimal Patel emphasized that the departures proposed in the Mumbai DP are in the correct direction. “Urban plans in India have generally failed. Mumbai’s planners are learning, the hard way, that the politics of planning is far more important than its technical aspects. Instituting reforms and making bold departures is never easy. Good ideas are not adopted simply because they are good. For them to be adopted, powerful people have to believe in them.”
Patel expressed the hope that Mumbai’s planners will use the coming four months to engage with key decision- and opinion-makers to convince them of the merit of their proposals—and not to reverse their proposals. “Forsaking the new liberal planning approach that its planners are proposing would be a tragedy for Mumbai,” he said. Hyderabad, for instance, has done away with the FSI norms and Ahmedabad has liberalized them to facilitate highrise buildings, supported by modern urban infrastructure, including mass rapid transport and BRT. Ahmedabad also has the unique partnership among the administrators-politiciansand planners which ensures the DP works without any hitches.
Patel felt that Mumbai’s planners had taken a “brave new, liberal approach” to the city’s new Development Plan (DP)-2034. They had, for example, liberalized floor space index (FSI) limits to dispel the artificial scarcity created by earlier plans. It rightly recognized that FSI limits do not limit population densities, but only limit floor space consumption. It integrated land use proposals with the city’s transportation networks, simplified FSI regulations to ease governance and unshackle architecture. “The development plan adopted policies for more efficient land use, abandoned the policy of reserving specific plots in favour of a fairer approach that distributes the cost of creating public benefits more broadly as also liberalized rigid zoning in favour of mixed-use zoning. It also proposed new regulations to provide better accessibility for disabled people.” he adds.
“Key opinion-makers have to be engaged with, educated and brought on board. Sincere, but misguided, experts have to be convinced or isolated. Vested interests have to be exposed. Public opinion has to be formed in favour of good ideas by engaging with the public. This is political work. Urban planning requires technical as well as political acumen.”
Correlate plan with other authorities
The draft DP-2034 was an attempt to simplify the development in the city however, it excluded major parts of Mumbai which came under various other authorities’ viz. MMRDA, Port Trust, Extended Suburbs, etc. and missed addressing areas like Slums, Redevelopment of Cessed / old dilapidated structures.
Veteran architect Premnath, Founder & Principal architect of design organization Prem Nath & associates in Mumbai points out that Port trust land amounts to close to 1,500 acres in the heart of city in South-Mumbai but, the said DP didn’t consider the impact of the ware houses, slums, commercial spaces, workers & their housing and a lot of junk space lying vacant in this area. Likewise, mill lands in Mumbai have been developed in most haphazard manner, without a proper planning for such lands including. MHADA, BDD Chawls, Corporations old vacant lands. “The swanky Bandra-Kurla Complex that started developing 30 years ago is still under development while, the surrounding areas have mushroomed up much faster and in a most unorganized manner. Similar would be the case of the above mentioned large land pockets if not taken in account in the DP-2034.” he adds.
Some of the ambiguities as per Premnath include, the island city’s coast line, about 40% land being under the CRZ. DP 2034 had given a blanket FSI enhancement without considering the areas under the CRZ – in-turn creating a conflict between the DP and the CRZ. Salt Pan Lands too were shown as developable with New FSI while, these lands are not under the State but the jurisdiction of Central Govt. Similarly, the No Development Zones in the City were blindly demarcated with FSI allowing commercial & residential development. Instead, these could have been marked as low density developments with FSI of 0.5 or 1 for cottages, villas and low-rise structures to maintain the sanctity of these green areas. On the other hand, he said, plan for the Arrey Milk Colony seemed to have been misunderstood by general public as organized and developed green space with some adventure activities would have been beneficial.
“Variable FSI is good, however one must have considered that Mumbai is a densely populated city and giving higher FSI near the stations would only mean more congestion near the stations. Higher FSI will also mean high rise structures, which shall be expensive and not affordable. What one needs is inexpensive housing close to stations, so that a middle class family is able to catch a train / metro and go to work, affordably” Premnath asserts.
As the said DP is planned for high buildability the infrastructure needs too should have been addressed. With base FSI itself being 3 – development / construction quantum would surely increased however the roads, sewage systems, water supply systems, remained under planned. “DP 2034 didn’t consider the traffic infrastructure, internal commuting synchronization and entry-exit points to the city. What happens to the city which has only a couple of entry-exit points and the new ones are yet being planned for more than two decades, but not implemented, be it the Panvel Airport, the road linkage towards Nava-sheva or the city-side exit to such linkages that are major bottlenecks.” he states.
Premnath considers DP 2034 good in terms of the distribution of FSI, simplification and clarity in development and open spaces, however it missed addressing some pertinent issues such as the heritage structures, the synchronization between the wholesale markets, planning for garbage disposal and most importantly connecting with the Mumbaikers. He said, “Present ly, 50% of Mumbai population lives in slums and only 10% population is able to afford living in this city Yet, Mumbai lacks affordable housing & redevelopment
of dilapidated structures and since last two Development Plans we have not been able to provide any unified thought in this matter. All this resulted in the said draft DP missing to achieve the trust of the major population of the city.”