To say the least, Mumbai’s draft DP 2034 had some major drawbacks, particularly concerning the mapping of existing land use and proposals related to densification, infrastructure, and open spaces. The approach of this DP was to guide development with differential FSI as an instrument with densification of transit oriented corridors. This concept is acceptable; however, the plan did not elaborate on the working of FSI slabs it proposed. In absence of that elaboration, questions regarding carrying capacity of the city and its neighbourhood, and if the city can build infrastructure to withstand and support the densification, were not answered convincingly.
The plan also did not provide an adequate vision and stance for facilitating affordable housing that the city requires so desperately. The DP was unclear about whether the densification measures would do any good for housing of low income groups and middle income groups, which form the backbone of residential activity for any Indian city.
There are already concerns about lack of enough open spaces in the city, and these concerns were aggravated by the fact that the DP proposed the development of areas which are in no-development zones, recreation zones and environmentally sensitive zones, not only reducing the per capita open space in the city but also posing questions about sustainability.
There were other valid reasons for the lack of confidence in the DP. Apart from glaring errors in mapping the existing land use plan, heritage structures were missing or their use was erroneously captured, and roads that did not exist appeared on the map. These and similar errors did not help in garnering the people’s support for the plan.
First and foremost, the existing land use map needs to be corrected. This is purely a case of correct and accurate documentation of the on-ground situation, and there cannot be any margin for error here. Ironing out the errors on this front will ensure that the basis for the DP is accurate and reliable, and that it indeed gives a viable road-map for developing Mumbai for next 20 years. The DP should also elaborate on:
· How it aims to address the problem of affordable housing
· How the infrastructure is to keep pace with the requirement arising out of population growth
· How the city can improve and increase its open spaces, and
· How the concept of differential FSI and transit-oriented densification and development can help the city to improve the overall standard of living, create and manage resources, and remain competitive.
Until the revised development plan is tabled, the current uncertainty will continue. Developers will wait to study the proposals and their implications before launching new projects. In the meantime, supply of new units may drop, and this will help in clearing the existing unsold inventory to some extent. Buyers should assess their needs well to decide if they should buy from the projects available now, or if they can wait until clarity emerges via the new DP.
Ashutosh Limaye, Head – Research & Real Estate Intelligence Service, JLL India