Recently, the Maharashtra state government approved Development Plan (DP) 2034 of Mumbai which is supposed to govern and regulate all constructions in the city for the next 15 years. However, our experience with previous development plans doesn’t make us too optimistic about the outcome of this Plan and it would be foolhardy to be hopeful that the city will undergo drastic changes under new plan.
Take the case of the 1991 DP, the objective of which was to address the then problems of the city such as redevelopment of – slums, cessed buildings and Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority (MHADA) colonies as well as to promote/guide the new development of buildings on private land. The problems which were there in 1990s are persisting even today – even after almost three decades of planning and implementation. Interestingly, the policies were revised several times to address the housing problems of people living in slums, cessed buildings and MHADA societies through redevelopment but ground realities have not changed much. It was estimated then that there were 1.5 million slum households in Mumbai against which only 100,000 houses were constructed. Few days back Slum Rehabilitation Authority invited bids for the development of Dharavi slum, Asia’s largest. This in itself speaks about our track record in implementation. There are about 20,000 cessed buildings in Mumbai out of which not even 10% have been redeveloped.
The preparation of a Development Plan (DP) is a Planning Authority’s statutory obligation. The first Development Plan for Bombay was sanctioned in 1967. The second DP of the city, known as DP 1991 was sanctioned in parts from 1991 to 1994. DP 2034 is the third Development Plan for Greater Mumbai. Third DP is different from the rest in the sense that for the first time 250 NGOs, about 2,500 citizens and 24 resident associations have been actively involved in the review process initiated in January 2014.
The development plan envisages the potential development of 3,700 hectares of land with approximately 65% allocated for affordable housing. It also provides for the planned creation of 8 million jobs and 1 million affordable homes. All these are noble objectives. It should be noted that we have never been short of ideas but what we lack is the skill (or urge?) to implement the projects within the given time. Even if we are not able to achieve even 25% of the mentioned goals no one will be held responsible and no one will be aware of the original objectives of the plan.
Its fact that around 7 million people live in slums in Mumbai with no basic amenities. Another 2.5 million people live in dilapidated buildings with constant danger being consigned into debris. All those who daily commute by using private vehicles or public transport are the victims of bad and pothole filled roads. Death by accident in overcrowded trains is still a routine thing. People are still at the mercy of rain gods and water tankers for water. Pollution reaches danger level quite frequently now a days though situation is much better than that in NCR. Unless these aspects are taken care of, these DPs are of little relevance for the common man. The Master Plan is slated to act as a catalyst for improving the life of the common man but indications are that result of DP 2034 will be no better than earlier plans.
The most noteworthy failure is on slum rehabilitation front. In last 25 years we have been able to rehabilitate only 10% of the population living in slums. At this rate, Mumbai will never be able get rid off its slums – whatever slums rehabilitated will be more than offset by new additions. It seems the authors of DP have failed to learn from the mistakes of the past DP and the same set of policies/mistakes with minor modifications have been carried into the current DCPR 2034 and with this same approach it is very difficult to address the problem of slums in Mumbai. The planning authorities have still not learned from past mistakes and are framing policies as per “one size fits all” model. It is just one of the drawbacks (of course major one) of the government’s ambitious plan.
Just as the preparation of the DP underwent close public scrutiny, implementation of the plan too needs similar kind of exercise. The development plan is a crucial policy document that can either promote or stifle the growth of a city; hence, it should be given paramount importance. In the absence of accountability on its implementation result of the DP which has been painstakingly prepared will not be different from earlier plans. In the absence of any accountability, the entire exercise of making DP will become ritualistic just as a Kumbhmela which comes once in 12 years. It should not become a ritual which comes once in two decades just to fulfil the demands of some influential realtors.