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Maha drops Mumbai Development Plan; new version in 4 months

The Maharashtra Government today scrapped the Mumbai Development Plan 2015-2034 that proposed to hike the floor space index (FSI) to a maximum of 8. The government has also asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to submit a reworked plan in four months.

Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Sarang Wadhawan of HDIL; Pujit Aggarwal, MD, Orbit; Ashutosh Limaye of JLL India and Cyrus Guzder, CMD, AFL hail the government’s move citing poor rail, road infrastructure and other health concerns.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in its 20 year development plan, had proposed increasing the FSI to a maximum of 8. FSI is the ratio of the permissible built-up area to the plot area and was 1.33 for Mumbai city and 1 for the suburbs.

Cyrus Guzder says that while the concept of variable FSI was principally a good idea, it could not be applied to Mumbai. Wadhawan agrees and adds that a better draft development plan is the need of the hour and needs to concentrate on Mumbai’s transport infrastructure.

Below is the transcript of Pujit Aggarwal, Sarang Wadhwan, Ashutosh Limaye and Cyrus Guzder’s interview with Latha Venkatesh and Surabhi Upadhyay on CNBC-TV18.

Surabhi: The plan stand scrapped, there will have to be a complete going back to the drawing board and looking at some of the issues, your reactions?

Wadhwan: It is a great step by the government of Maharashtra so scrap this draft DP. Primarily after the huge public outcry that has happened. I think it is better that now that they already have done half the work and half the objections, suggestions are already in, they can incorporate that in the next two months and give out a better draft DP. I think it has given us a bit of an inside into the thought process of the government as well as far as the infrastructure network is concerned or the road network is concerned. So for developers, it is going to be beneficial to incorporate our plans according to the earlier DP and at least put that stringency on ourselves and see if we can plan the buildings better.

Surabhi: One of the most controversial aspects of the plan was the fact that it was offering much higher floor space index (FSI) across different parts of the city, if that is tweaked in the new model and the FSI been promised as not as what the earlier plan was promising, how will you then as a real estate developer react to that, are you willing to settle with lower levels of FSI?

Wadhwan: What Latha also said was that the lack of affordable housing and the lack of availability of housing also caused people to move into slums. I think that needs to be thought into. Higher FSI would provide a better housing, it would provide the space for people to get into but at the same time, yes, causing huge stress on the infrastructure, I think it needs to be a balancing act by the government, not by just someone who is sitting on his computer on a Google map and trying to place reservations. I think it is very important that some thought process needs to be put on to the infrastructure and keeping the housing requirements of the city in mind.

Latha: Plan has been scrapped, will be reviewed and represented, your thoughts, were you on the side of a higher FSI, what were your objections or positives on that plan?

Aggarwal: There are two broad aspects about this plan, one is that in land use which is what we are talking about, it was a step in the right direction and as what you rightly mentioned, along with that is that it did not address the concern. So I am sure now with the review, those concerns will be addressed and we would be well placed in having more open space for the city to breathe in.

Second of all, as far as we as developers are concerned — at Orbit we are specializing in redevelopment of properties and in redevelopment the actual area which was to be given both to tenant and available for free sell that was reduced. So it is a misnomer that it was across the board bonanza for development and there would be more land that would get released. So in redevelopment space, certainly it was a negative and we had objected to that ourselves.

The government has got 25,000 suggestion from people personal and general. So you would have a very large data base now to move in the direction that is generally viewed by the public which would be the right step.

Surabhi: Just to understand numbers and the genuineness of the problem, if we look at Mumbai’s support infrastructure, roads and sewage etc, being what it is today, realistically speaking, what sort of FSI range do you think the city’s civic and road infrastructure can support right now for the island city and for the suburbs because some of these suggestions, some of these viewpoints will make their way into the new plan whenever it comes up. Can you give us some broad sense of realistic FSI, which can be supported on current infrastructure?

Aggarwal: As far as our personal calculation is concerned and etc is that FSI across the board are between 3 and 4 is a fair FSI because if you look at two-three things, today people are travelling on the road, people are using the infrastructure as far as water, sewage etc are concerned so what we need to make sure is that the last mile is completed and everything is flowing through seamlessly. So we need to make sure that the people who are living today are living comfortably and in whatever little constraints that would be there, it would be addressed.

Second — FSI between 3 and 4 across the city of blended FSI would be the correct FSI that we should have. Again in the present law that we have today, we have FSI which is of 3 and 4 or 2.5 etc but you have areas which are free. Now in the new DP they were including all those areas like parking, entrance lobbies, lifts, staircase, corridors all into the FSI. Therefore there was a decrease in the so-called available space for habitable area with the land owner or with the developer or with the user.

So in this case, we are seeing an FSI 3 or 4 with the availability of free of FSI spaces that were already available.

Latha: What are your thoughts on the plan being scrapped for the moment and the Maharashtra government asking for a review of the plan?

Limaye: Welcome step, we all wanted this plan to go for revision, a thorough revision because not only did it speak very little about the vision and especially infrastructure of the city it also had several errors in its existing land use plan. So, on both fronts it needed relook, it needed thorough work.

It is a welcome step that the Chief Minister has announced that will be reviewed and if the committee feels the need it will be scrapped and will be prepared afresh. I welcome this decision. It was needed for the city’s good. We hope that the process that has started and the kind of awareness and sensationalisation it has achieved among people will ensure that whatever revised plan happens, happens for the better of the city.

Latha: The plan has been scrapped and a review has been called for. What are your first thoughts?

Guzder: My first thoughts are of delight and relief that the government of Maharashtra has moved so quickly and so decisively. The plan was flawed in so many fundamental ways that merely making some modifications based upon suggestions and objections would not have altered the fundamental discrepancies of the plan. So, I am very delighted that they have decided to this.

We would like to work constructively with them because it is not as if the plan didn’t have some good features in it. However, the three or four fundamental issues which were difficult to correct, which have been first of all the huge dilution of amenities particularly for open spaces, secondly the variable floor space index (FSI) – in principle a good idea but in application it is terribly skewed, the wholesale removal of three quarters of the heritage buildings which would have got them into conflict with the existing development control rules and heritage regulation.

The fact that there was no linkages at all with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) across harbour which is where the linkages for Mumbai must now take place, from west to east across the harbour. However, above all, the fact that they had excluded so many areas of the city which were under other special planning authorities such as the Slum Redevelopment Authority (SRA), The City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO), Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Dharavi, Back Bay, the Mumbai Airport. How could you have a plan for Greater Mumbai and exclude all these from the purview of the plan.

So, we have to go back to the drawing board and not just do another development plan for the BMC, I hope that they could get the various municipalities and special planning agencies together and do a more integrated, comprehensive plan for the 16-18 million people who live in this region.

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