BMC to developers: Build forests, not just buildings

Updated: Aug 14, 2019, 09:07 IST | Chetna Sadadekar | Mumbai

Projects above 1,000 sq m may soon have to keep half of recreational ground space for urban forests

The BMC has been criticised for the diminishing green cover in the city. Representation pic
The BMC has been criticised for the diminishing green cover in the city. Representation pic

The BMC may rope in developers to boost urban forests, not through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, but by making it mandatory to set aside half of their projects' recreational space for urban forests. As of now, it is mandatory for builders developing over 1,000 square metres of land to keep about 10 to 25 per cent of the plot for recreational grounds (RG). The civic body now wants them to develop half of this space as urban forests and make this mandatory for them to secure an Occupation Certificate. The concept was discussed in a meeting between green activists and BMC Commissioner Pravin Pardeshi on Tuesday.

The civic body had last week tweeted, "Buying a flat? We have a few questions you must ask your builder! Else the building will never get the OC, you see? #AskBeforeYouBuy". All buildings made on plot sizes above 1,000 square metres must set aside 10-25 per cent space for RG in the plot area, 50 per cent of which must be converted into Urban Forests, it had stated. The image also laid down various other provisions of compulsory Rain Water Harvesting and sewage treatment plants for developments done on a plot of over 20,000 sq m.

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A civic official, however, said that while the tweet was meant for awareness, there is still no provision on paper for this move. "We are thinking of incorporating it. Changes will have to be made to make it mandatory as it will then have to be a part of the Development Control and Promotion Regulations of 2034. As it is, the RG space is left open by the developers compulsorily then we believe that just creating dense plantation of trees should not be an issue."

BMC Tweet
Screenshot of a tweet by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation

Rajendra Zope, chief engineer of DP department was not available for comment.

Urban Forests will mean planting as many native trees as possible in the area to develop dense plantation at the spot. It is necessary, BMC officials said, to bring this change since the current recreational grounds only mean developing gardens and related infrastructure. It doesn't necessarily add to the green cover of the city.

The proposal is being considered by the BMC after Pardeshi was appointed as municipal commissioner. The civic body has been criticised for its concretisation of gardens and open spaces for years and wants to reverse its image by adopting such measures.

BMC's green steps

The first step it took was turning 100 sites across the city into lush green forests by implementing the Japanese Miyawaki technique of plantation. The BMC will develop Miyawaki forests on 60 of the 100 locations and hand over the remaining to private businesses that would develop the plots under their CSR.

Also Read: BMC proposes ALMs to be roped in for waste management

Not viable, say developers

Developers seem to disagree with the BMC claiming that dense plantation might be difficult in case of small plot developments. While Ozone Group's CEO (Mumbai) Rajat Khandelwal said, "Any move to make Mumbai greener is welcome," the layout of RG prescribed under the current regulation "is already utilised in the landscaping in all our projects," he said. "We use it in ways that make movement of people and vehicles easier. In projects that are developed in less than a hectare of land and especially redevelopment projects, it is difficult to make space for dense forestation as it will severely affect mobility," Khandelwal added.

However, BMC officials said that it is not going to be an additional open space but the conversion of half of the already mandated spaces into Urban Forests.

According to Devang Varma, promoter, Omkar Realtors, "This move is welcome. The city certainly needs green spaces and playgrounds."

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