This article is written with detailed analysis and groundwork by Rishikesh Ravindra Vyapari
The Mumbai Development Plan 2034 is a matter of discussion and debate of the moment for Mumbai. After the cumbersomePreparatory Studies, scrutiny by the Planning Committee, hearing the suggestions/objections from the public and various organizations, and after going through various stages of approval, the Development Plan-2034 and Development Control and Promotion Regulations-2034 is in force now. The whole of Mumbai is enthusiastic as well as cautious for the DP-2034, as it will, directly and indirectly, affect the standard of living of public in Mumbai.
As this financial capital of India is all poised to become a global city, the DP-2034 could be the step in the right direction. The holistic approach has been adopted to formulate the Development Plan to ensure its success. However, the process of preparation and implementation of the Development Plan is a tedious task and faces many challenges. While many of the risks and challenges are taken into consideration, certain inherent risks may still play the role of a spoiler into the success path of Mumbai city. Those risks are ranging from various fields such as social, legal, administrative, economic, as well as technical fields. These are embedded into the system right from the policy formulation stage to the final stage of implementation. These inherent risks are not conventional which are discussed and debated to the fullest but are least noticed and seldom addressed. This is an attempt to identify those risks.
1. Fixed Tenure for a Continuous Process
This development plan is proposed for 20 years. The first development plan for Mumbai was sanctioned in the year 1967 and second in the year 1991. From a planning point of view, it can be said that Mumbai has completed 50 Years of Planned Development. The question arises as to whether we were anticipating somewhat similar city that we live in today when we planned in the year 1967 or 1991. The answer to the question is neither Yes nor No. The reason being, the development is a continuous and unending process. Even the perception of the development changes faster than the change in a generation. Hence, in this era of instant and drastic changes, freezing a development plan for a period as long as 20 years is a risk.
However, it doesn’t mean that the development plans should be introduced more frequently. As stated earlier, a city’s development is a continuous process and hence it must be dealt in that fashion only. Any continuous process is generally managed by the Continuous Monitoring Process, which is a scientific approach to handle such a process. Repeated cycles of such Continuous Monitoring process can bring us closer to the goal. Let us not forget that the great ideas do evolve instantly, provided it had a persistent and unending thought process.
To achieve this, a dedicated system must be in place at least for a metropolis like Mumbai. Developing a specialised and autonomous study and research centre for social, economic, legal and technical aspects of urban planning is the need of the hour. Such a study/research centre can take feedback on existing development plan regularly and would also ensure the much-needed continuity in the development process. It would also help in finding more realistic and innovative ways to upgrade the city.
2. Lack of Collaborations with Research Institutions
The urban planning is a technical major involving the application of scientific, technical processes, considerations and features that are involved in planning. It also touches upon the various social, economic and legal aspects as well, but it does not render the field no technical. Hence, the involvement and active participation of technical experts like urban designers and engineers are inevitable in the process. The technical experts have a great role to play at every stage of preparation of the draft, sanctioning the development plan and its implementation.
However, the direct participation of the experts from various disciplines is reduced to minuscule when it comes to Development Plan formulation. The restraint from the established system is one of the reasons for lack of initiative and involvement from the technical experts. Thus, the much needed technical and scientific approach is neglected in the decision-making process in a technical field like urban designing. As the implementing agencies lack the required degree of autonomy, it adversely affects the goal of urban development. Moreover, the required level of involvement of research institutions, such as reputed universities and colleges, at the planning as well as implementation stage is lacking. The increased collaboration with Research Institutes would increase the active participation of experts from various disciplines and would also help achieve overall DP targets.
3. Partial Participation of Stakeholders
Sufficient opportunity of being heard and submission of suggestions/objections is given to every stakeholder; from individual citizens to private corporate and from NGOs to government agencies. Participation of all the stakeholders is must for an urban development plan to be successful. Particularly the city of Mumbai has a long list of implementing agencies having assigned a specific role in the development of Mumbai, such as MMRDA, MHADA, SRA, MSRDC, PWD, MPCB, MMRCL, BEST, Indian Railways, Government of Maharashtra, Government of India, etc. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) is Planning Authority for most of the land in city as well as the suburb and is empowered to prepare and publish the Development Plan. However, MCGM is not the only authority concerned with the development of Mumbai. The major infrastructure projects are handled by MMRDA, MSRDC, PWD; housing is the domain of MHADA & SRA; transportation is looked after by MMRCL, BEST, and Indian Railways; and the list appears unending. The structure and functioning of every agency are different and so are their needs. Coordination with such a vast number of agencies is in itself a herculean task.
At present, the preparation of the development plan is a scheduled activity. It is done once every 20 years and is not a continuous process. When Planning Authority is ready to prepare the draft plan and invites the participation from other agencies in the form of their requirements, suggestions, etc. it is possible that the other agencies may not be ready with the concrete plan or may not be serious enough to get their needs and plans accommodated in DP. Also, the indirect participation of these agencies, in the form of suggestions, objections and scheduled hearing are insufficient to accommodate their concerns fully in the development plan. There is no permanent and active participation from these agencies, as the preparation of the development plan is mainly carried out by MCGM. The other government agencies are not only the major stakeholders but also the partners in the development activity. For instance, if the suburban rail network and bus transport system in Mumbai is accounting for more than 7 million and 5.5 million daily passenger trips respectively, can we envision the development of transportation system without participation of BEST and Indian Railways?
Let us consider the example of a global city like London. The Greater London Authority publishes ‘The London Plan’ written by Mayor of London, which is the spatial development strategy for the Greater London area. The London Plan has a clear and authoritative vision for the development of London’s Transport. This is possible because the main agency for transport services in London i.e. ‘Transport for London’ is controlled by the Mayor of London. The ‘Transport for London’ runs almost all the modes of transport, such as buses, trams, tubes/metro, light railway, river services etc.
The existence of such differentiation in Mumbai is a big hurdle in the development of Mumbai. But, involving the other implementing agencies as ‘Partners’ in preparation and implementation of development plan instead of ‘stakeholders’, could do the magic.
4. Missing Jane Jacob’s Way
“People make cities, and it is to them, not buildings that we must fit our plan.” It is one of the famous quotes of American writer-activist Jane Jacobs on urban planning. She did not have any formal training on urban planning, but wrote the most influential book on urban planning and cities named ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’. The book was published way back in the year 1961 based on her observations about the development plans and then existing vibrant urban community of New York City of the 1950s. She wrote about how cities work in real life. She identified her principles of planning and practices that promote social and economic vitality. She defended the densely populated dwelling areas, very small blocks, old buildings, complex residential and commercial places, buoyant streets, and such other characteristics which can easily be seen in old, congested areas of Mumbai, Delhi or any other big city in India. She also put forth the principle of the need for a most intricate and close-grained diversity of uses that gives each other constant mutual support, both economically and socially. She stood against the so-called urban renewal policies that destroyed communities and created isolated, unnatural urban spaces in New York.
‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ is as applicable and relevant to Mumbai today as it was to New York in 1950s. Similar development models are being practised today in Mumbai as well as other cities of the country. The famous Chawl culture of Mumbai is almost extinct now. Express highways are jammed even on non-peak hours. Isolated spaces in the high rise apartments have destroyed the person to person connect in the neighbourhood. Travel times have sharply risen. The pollution control seems a distant aim. The self-reliant economic and vibrant social areas of the old city are being lost. The overall quality of life has deteriorated, irrespective of one’s financial capabilities. The efforts are being made to preserve the ‘Heritage’ structures, but the traditional and cultural fabric of the Mumbai is being wiped out in the process of the orthodox and untailored urban renewal plans. The plans that haven’t worked well in the past may fail again. The innovative, realistic and practical approach in planning is much needed for maintaining the metropolitan and financial capital status of Mumbai. Neglecting Jane’s perspective of looking at the cities is also a risk in the development path of Mumbai.
5. Dealing with the Slums, Dilapidated Buildings and structures in Conventional Way
Slums and the old dilapidated buildings are seen as the major hurdles in the development process in Mumbai. Almost 3422 hectares of land is occupied by slums in Mumbai, which houses approximately 5.5 million people. It accounts for not less than 1.5 million houses to rehabilitate the slum dwellers and wipe out the slums. There are about 14 thousand cessed buildings in the island city of Mumbai, and most of them have outlived their lives rendering themselves in dilapidated conditions. There are other dilapidated buildings in island city and suburb, but only the slums and cessed properties are dealt with by the government agencies from the development point of view. The issue of development of slums and dilapidated buildings, which fundamentally is a social and technical matter, has now taken shape of a much complicated legal and political issue. The issue is being dealt with on a model based on ‘Public-Private Partnership’ and ‘Incentive scheme’. Such models of development have been practised for long, but no substantial and satisfactory results are seen.
Einstein had once said, “We cannot solve our problem with the same thinking we used when we created them”. The statement is not only relevant to the present situation of slums and the dilapidated buildings but also suggests a way to deal with the matter. In some cases, the redevelopment of slums can be dealt in a way which would create more open/green spaces on existing slum areas, instead of adopting the policy of maximising the housing stock. The freed areas of slum after redevelopment can be used for various public purposes and accommodating public utilities. This would also eliminate the need for putting reservations on other private lands, or creating a usable space by disturbing eco-sensitive areas. Similar is the case of dilapidated buildings. The dilapidation of a building is purely a technical matter, and the same must be addressed majorly as a technical issue.
Moreover, it is seen that many buildings and other structure as old as 30-35 years are also becoming dilapidated. The cause of same may be attributed to the severe environmental condition of Mumbai due to its proximity to the sea, but this is not the only reason for dilapidation. The use of advanced technology and suitable construction materials must be promoted and made mandatory if required, to overcome this issue. This may not be the only and exact solution to the problem, but it is just to illustrate a way to deal with the core issues by going to the root cause. Thus, the typical and conventional approach to handle the slums, dilapidated building and other structures is in itself a risk in the development goal.
6. Passive Approach in Implementation
The overall approach in the execution of the development plan is highly passive. The development plan proposes the spatial development goals without mentioning time limits or deadlines assigned for them. A goal without a schedule is equivalent to planning without a goal. In a way, the development plan fails to provide the proper directions to the implementing agencies, and as a result, the agencies fail to align and prioritize their targets following the overall development goals of the city. As a result, the development related issues enter into the vicious circle of conflicting and noncompliant goals of the development plan and the agencies responsible for its implementation. Thus, such high passivity in the approach of implementation is also a threat to the development goals.
7. Lack of Development Culture
Development Culture means the active participation of the public and the implementing organisations in achieving the development goals. The term ‘Development Culture’ is also synonymous with ‘mutual trust’. The mutual trust and cooperation between the public and the implementing organisations is the essence of the development goal. However, the resistance from the public and the social activists to the major infrastructure projects and the number of litigations in various courts reflects the lack of mutual trust between the public and the implementing organisations. The consequences of such resistance and litigations are well known and hence the ‘lack of development culture’ is a matter of risk in achieving the developmental goal.
A decade ago the main reason for public resistance was the poorly managed rehabilitation of the project affected persons and the compensation disputes. Today, a new dimension is known as ‘environmental concern’ is added to the public resistance, in addition to the rehabilitation and compensation. However, the system is not well equipped to assess the exact concerns and to find and implement the solutions to these issues. As a result, the development culture fails to spread and percolate in the society. It would not be the exaggeration to state that another dimension may be added in the next few years apart from existing rehabilitation, compensation and environmental concerns.
Instead of finding a mutually consenting and case-specific way out to the disputes, the plan implementing agencies typically resort to the tougher stand against the public and the public sees the litigation as the solution to the concerns. Eventually, both the public and the implementing organisations try to find out a legal solution to non-legal issues. It may not satisfy both the parties, ultimately resulting in widening of mutual distrust and further hampering the development culture.
Preparation and implementation of Development Plan for the existing city of Greater Mumbai is a challenging task. There could be few errors, omissions or wrong predictions in its formulation. Those can be overcome if a proper systemic mechanism is available. But, if the system itself is erroneous, it could lead to multiplication and magnification of problems. We may not find the development achievable despite vigorous planning if the systemic errors are left unattended. These risks are not attributed to any persons or organisations but are systemic, and hence called inherently. These inherent risks need to be addressed and attended properly and timely to achieve the goals of the desired development plan.
(AUTHOR’S DECLARATION: The views expressed in this article by the author are his own and not that of Government or any government organisation.)