A man gazes out at the skyline above the water in Mumbai, India (Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg News)  

Mumbai To Get 3,650 Hectares Of Barred Zone, Salt Pans For Development

Maharashtra will release 3,355 hectares of land previously designated as no-development zone for building apartments and commercial complexes in Mumbai, the world’s second most crowded city.

About 2,100 hectares of it will go for affordable housing under the Development Plan 2034, Ajoy Mehta, municipal commissioner of Mumbai, said in a press conference today. An additional 300 hectares of salt pan land will also go for affordable homes.

The document determines the city’s land use and infrastructure development for the next 20 years. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had ordered revision of the first version released in February 2014 due protests and public outcry.

“This (new plan) is a positive development for affordable housing. There will be a huge amount of real estate activity in the island city and many of listed real estate developers in Mumbai are going to benefit from this,” Anuj Puri, chairman at property consultant Anarock, told BloombergQuint. “I do have concerns if the infrastructure can keep pace.”

Here are the key highlights from the press conference, also addressed by Nitin Kareer, secretary at the state’s Urban Development Department:

  • 1 million affordable homes targeted.
  • Open spaces marked as no-construction areas.
  • No suggestion to delete open spaces accepted.
  • Theme gardens, pay and park parking, old-age homes, walking provision, farmers market earmarked.
  • 12,859 hectares marked as natural areas—hills, slopes, mangroves, eco sensitive areas—where no development can take place.
  • Fly ash to be allowed as a building material.
  • Floor space index -- the extent of development allowed on a piece of land -- for commercial development increased to 5.

Puri said he wanted to understand on how the salt pan developments will take place given the coastal zone regulations. “My understanding is that the CR-Z (coastal zone regulations) would have been relaxed to accommodate affordable housing on salt pans.”

Also Read: FSI Increased For Residential, Commercial Buildings In Mumbai

The Risks

The new development plan opens these lands for housing but there should be very strict norms on how environmental clearances are given and properly regulated, said Ronita Bardhan of the Centre for Urban Science and Engineering, at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.

“Not only that, there should be efficiency in mapping up these lands for allowing them to open up for construction,” she said.

Rishi Aggarwal, urban development expert and environmentalist, believes constructing on salt-pan lands would follow the Archimedes principle of buoyancy, that “if you sit in the bath tub, that much amount of water is going to be displaced.”

“Same way, if you construct on salt pans, you would take away the capacity of that land to absorb that. So it is a big concern,” he said.

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