BMC's new rule will rob Mumbai of a third of its open spaces

Apr 25, 2016, 08:30 IST | Tanvi Deshpande

New Development Control Regulations say the owner of a plot reserved for a recreation ground or a playground can construct on 30% of the land while utilising the full FSI of the entire plot

BMC has hit upon a scheme that will cost it less money, but could end up costing the city heavily in terms of open spaces. Already choking with a growing concrete jungle and shrinking green pockets, Mumbai now stands to lose nearly a third of all proposed open spaces if the civic body goes ahead with a newly introduced clause in the draft Development Control Regulations (DCR) 2034.

Civic officials said the new DCR clause has been introduced to enable the BMC to get the remaining 70 per cent for free.  File PIC/BIPIN KOKATE
Civic officials said the new DCR clause has been introduced to enable the BMC to get the remaining 70 per cent for free. File Pic/Bipin Kokate

The contentious clause states that in case of a plot reserved for recreational grounds and playgrounds (RG/PG), the builder can keep 30% for construction and give BMC the remaining 70%. The builder will be allowed to build on his area with the FSI of the full plot — leading to vertical development — while the BMC will get a free open space in return.

The city stands to lose nearly a third of proposed open spaces, thanks to the new rule in the draft DCR 2034. File pic for Representation

In the past, the BMC would often find it tough to acquire land for a recreation ground or playground. Since it is mandatory to reserve a certain amount of area under the open spaces policy, the plot owners would take advantage of this and often demand more money.

"It was observed in the previous Development Plans that when a private plot would be reserved for a recreation ground or a playground, the owner would ask the BMC for a higher price and go to court. The litigation would go on for years. And with the new land acquisition laws in place, owners have to be compensated several times. In order to find a solution to this lengthy process, we have come up with this provision," informed a highly placed civic official.

It’s not hard to see the advantage for the BMC in this arrangement, but open space activists are fuming, since this will chop down on 30% of all new open spaces, even though the BMC had promised to go green this time. The civic body has already gone back on its promise of no construction inside RG/PG by allowing 15% construction on private open spaces. It had also faced flak in the last DCR for reserving less open space per capita.

The DCR are the guidelines that regulate construction in the city. A lot rides on these rules since they decide the direction of the real estate market in the upcoming years. The BMC is coming out with its draft of the DCR 2034 in parts, with nine chapters and a road survey already released. The objective is to allow people time to submit their suggestions and objections to each of them.

Three more chapters on FSI, open space and parking are yet to be released.

Activists upset
Pankaj Joshi, executive director of the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), criticised this provision. "If the BMC could not implement the previous DCRs, that is not the citizens’ fault. Why should we compromise on open space? If they are so concerned about the implementation of the DCR, they should reserve more amenity plots. As it is, the open space per capita is low in Mumbai. Why only 70%? Citizens should get access to the entire plot and other accommodation reservations can be kept separate."

Civic activist Shyama Kulkarni said, "If they allow a builder to construct on 30% of the plot, what if he constructs a gymkhana on it? Then even the remaining open space will be used exclusively by members of that gymkhana. The whole point of it will be lost."

The clause
Section 17 of chapter 3 (land uses and manner of development) of the DCR: An RG, PG can either be developed by a ‘corporation or appropriate authority’ or ‘the owner will be allowed to develop the reservation on accommodation reservation basis’. In the case of the latter, maximum percentage of reserved plot to be set aside for amenity (garden) developed under accommodation reservation is 70 per cent.

How it will work
Say a 1,000-sq-m plot gets reserved as an open space, under the new clause, the plot owner can keep 300 sq m and construct vertically on it, using the FSI of all 1,000 sq m. Meanwhile, the BMC gets 700 sq m as an open space without having to pay any charge. According to the official, this provision is profitable for owners and developers, since they get to retain a part of the plot and consume full FSI. Besides, the BMC gets an open space for free and without litigation. "In case the plot is small, the owner can consume the FSI by merging neighbouring plots. If there is a height restriction in the area, he can use the remaining development rights elsewhere in the city," informed an official from the DP department.

Shirish Sukhatme, ex-president of PEATA (Practising Engineering Architect Town Planners Association) said, "It might be a good provision for the city’s open spaces, but then the BMC should not charge open space premium to builders. Because that, coupled with fungible FSI, parking charges, etc, will increase the cost of flats, thereby burdening the buyers."

Sukhatme added that the BMC should also not make other open spaces within the building premises compulsory.

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