12/12/12 proved to be a significant date in the history of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). For the first time the Corporation has put in the public domain the mid-term work toward the Development Plan (DP) for the city. It has asked the people of Mumbai to comment on the existing land use (ELU) of the city. The MCGM and its chief deserve kudos for initiating this participative process.
The ELU maps are on the MCGM website and will also be put up in each of the 24 ward offices. The people of Mumbai have about one month to submit their comments. First some background. The Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act requires that each municipal corporation prepare a development plan (DP) which is applicable for a twenty-year period. Since the formation of the state this exercise has been undertaken only twice. First one started in 1961.
The second DP process started in 1981 but could not be finalised and adopted until 1994. That DP expires in 2014, and a revised DP has to be ready in less than 18 months. Unlike the last two DPs this one has been opened up for public participation and scrutiny.
Thanks to tireless work of several citizens’ organisations like the Urban Development Research Institute, Citispace, YUVA, Praja, AGNI, many ward and area level NGO’s, and indeed many other organisations, there is great awareness about the DP. It is for all citizens to examine the ELU, and cross check it with the actual ground reality in their neighborhood.
If the ELU denotes an area as an open space, but in fact is not, then quick action must be taken. The Municipal Commissioner cannot take refuge in any excuse of a “printing mistake”! The ELU establishes base line. It will determine the actual DP. For instance if it does not acknowledge the de facto area of slums, or acknowledge areas covered by hawkers and encroachers, then citizens have a chance to correct this.
This exercise is a first among all metro cities of India. Some caveats are in order. The existing ELU indeed has many deficiencies, which have been pointed out to the MCGM by UDRI and others.
The ELU plan does not indicate the presence of hawkers or congregations of naka workers. The slum areas are not covered by DP and will be covered by a separate planning authority. There are some defects in the areas earmarked for sewage treatment and pumping.
The total area of greater Mumbai as indicated by the ELU is bigger than the official statistics (officially the area of greater Mumbai is 437 sq kms). But more importantly, we must remember that even if the land use is correctly mapped, and a DP is formulated on the most scientific principles, it still does not guarantee the actual “development” of the city.
Most economic and infrastructure development will happen dynamically, with large private sector investment only, and continuously changing land values. The commuting and traffic pattern as well as shifting business districts, cannot be and are not supposed to be predicted by the DP.
The metro, mono-rail, trans harbour link, new multiplexes or the new airport is not explicitly in the DP. But land use restrictions will be only indicated. If, however, these are not respected, then Mumbai in 2034 will look totally unlike what its citizens imagined and jointly planned in 2014.
This is exactly what happened between 1994 and now. Today’s city has no correlation with the earlier DP. Hence our vigilance does not end with simply commenting on the ELU. It only begins now.