MCGM commissioner defends Aarey development plan, hike in FSI

Mumbai: Amidst the criticism of its draft development plan for the city for the next twenty years, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai today said it will set up a separate urban planning department for monitoring the implementation of the plan.

"We have developed the basic plan keeping in mind the long-term future of Mumbai, and the pace at which change will occur is not predictable. We have made a plan that is not deterministic and prescriptive," Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte said, speaking to reporters here.

He said a special urban planning department will be set up to monitor the overall development of the city including activities of other agencies such as MMRDA, Slum Rehabilitation Authority, Mumbai Port Trust, etc.

"This department will have urban planners with expertise in this field and will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the DP," he said.

The draft plan has come under heavy criticism for its proposal of further developing the Aarey Colony area, spread over 1,619 hectares (around 4,000 acres), which is known for its tree-cover. The DP proposes new development on 1,009 hectares, leaving only 232 hectares of the green cover intact.

Defending the plan, Kunte said, "Can anyone guarantee that the (Aarey) land will not become a slum haven? There are certain inexorable pressures that operate in these kind of situations and if these areas are not planned properly, there is a likelihood that the land will be put to uses not intended or thought of while drafting the plan."

Equating Mumbai with New York and Los Angeles, he said, "We want to develop financial and services industries. Our vision is to give impetus to sectors like IT/ITeS and entertainment. Through the proposal, we have given an alternative way to look at developing the area and safeguarding a substantial portion of it for open space and earmarking some portion for developing knowledge economy."

The draft plan also proposes up to 8 FSI, which has raised the hackles of civic activists who say it would benefit only the builders.

On this, the Commissioner said, "This (higher FSI) allows more growth along transportation corridors and nodes. It also proposes to improve cross-city transportation. Restricting FSI to low levels has not worked in controlling congestion but created and sustained severe scarcity of development rights and floor space."

"This has driven up property prices, made formal housing un-affordable, needlessly fuelled the expansion of slums, made life crowded as well as reduced the city's productivity," he said.

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