Will Mumbai maximize its new development plan?

Ashali Bhandari, Mumbai Community Manager
Mumbai, 1 June 2016

The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has spent almost five years preparing its third Development Plan (DP) for the city. This Development Plan was supposed to be inaugurated in 2014 and last until 2034. After three years of preparation, it was released in 2014 and received harsh criticism and has thus gone back under review. From a legal perspective, the plan is meant to propose upcoming land uses in the city, identify lands for public purposes, plan for social infrastructure, transport systems, physical infrastructure and services, conservation areas, reclamation, and more. Mumbai’s upcoming Development Plan has the power to shape planning in an equitable manner over the next twenty years.

This month, we speak with Hussain Indorewala, a faculty member at the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies, who also writes about urban politics, sustainability, and planning in Mumbai, about the potential of the plan in its current state.

Who is involved in creating the Development Plan? After the finalization of the plan, who is responsible for implementation?

There are various actors involved in the making of the DP. The official actors are the State Government, the Development Planning Department and other sectorial departments of the MCGM. In addition, there are various groups operating in the city (The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, Slum Rehabilitation Authority, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority, Mumbai Port Trust, etc.), which are important actors. There are also non-official actors in the form of pressure groups, lobbies, consultants, NGOs, activists, etc. (though the degree of influence of these groups are far from equal) who play an important role in influencing the Plan. Once MCGM has prepared its proposals, they are presented to the general public for comments and suggestions as well.
The State Government appoints a Planning Committee to oversee the suggestion and objection process, and also sanction the plan. The implementation is MCGM's responsibility, however there are no penalties for non-implementation, and the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act simply states that it is "the duty of the Planning Authority to take steps that may be necessary to carry out the provisions" of the plan.

What have the challenges been in the implementation of the previous Development Plan (1991-2011)?

In terms of implementation, the standard lament of the MCGM has been the difficulty in acquiring land from private owners. In the 1991 Development Plan, new 'tools' were introduced for the purpose, such as Accommodation Reservation (where a private owner is allowed to use part of her /his land for private purpose provided a planned public amenity is constructed by the owner on it), and Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). These market-oriented techniques were meant to provide incentives to owners to surrender portions of their land for public uses. Despite this, plans have seen very limited implementation. Incentives were also given for slum rehab, dilapidated buildings redevelopment, etc. This has made the repeated modification of Development Control Rules a virtual art form.

What are the problems plaguing the finalization of this Development Plan?

Development plans since the first one in 1964 have been highly contested in Mumbai. This one, the third one, has been in progress since 2011, and has already been put on review, and is being released in parts. The current plan has been opposed by various groups for very different reasons. It is not true that only NGOs and activists opposed it; a large opposition was from developers who found the various exemptions of the 1991 DP preferable to the 2014 DP.

How can the Development Plan be used to make Mumbai a more equitable city? How can it address issues of poverty and rising inequality?

The DP has the possibility of becoming a re-distributive tool, since it can, in theory, combine proposals for land use, social programs and municipal expenditure. So for instance, if equity is the aim, it can set up clear and assessable goals such as:
• Improving human development indicators across the city
• Creating a certain number of formal sector jobs in the city by incentivising labour intensive, small to medium scale enterprises in the city (and not just by incentivising production of commercial floor space).
• It can set a target of producing a certain number of formal social housing units on vacant lands, while refurbishing existing housing stock of the city (instead of providing incentives for redevelopment).
• It can prioritize public transport and set targets (based on number of trips per day by public transport) to improve current ratios, by a series of measures such as parking charges, dedicated bus lanes, and improvements in transport terminals.
• It can aim to provide free and universal basic health and educational programs with high standards to all the city’s inhabitants.
• It can use existing laws (such as the street vendor act) to protect livelihoods of street vendors, create special guidelines for vending, and restrict on-street parking to facilitate vendors and pedestrians.
• It can provide special facilities near and within informal settlements that improve working conditions, provide job training and support, and help set up worker cooperatives.
• It can create facilities and social programs for groups with special needs.

Are you optimistic about the role the Development Plan can play in propelling Mumbai to becoming an inclusive city?

The MCGM's talk of making the city 'inclusive' is humbug. The proposals attempt to do the opposite. City level urban renewal is hardly ever going to work in the interests of the urban poor. Not mapping informal livelihoods (street vendors) and not planning for the informal sector is not going to make an inclusive city. Leaving development of "slums" to the SRA - the biggest vertical slum builder in Mumbai - is hardly going to make an inclusive city. Enriching real estate developers and rewarding them with the hope that they act in public interest is hardly going to produce an inclusive city. The review committee is now dumping the two or three good ideas from the 2014 plan.
The DP has the potential of being a very important instrument of social policy. However, as it is presently conceived, it has been made into a land use zoning tool, and a very inadequate attempt to control private development of land. Unless the entire conception of development planning changes from facilitation of construction activity to achievement of human development goals, there is little possibility of the DP making any difference from the perspective of social equity and spatial justice.

Photo credit: Paul Braiuca

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