Bombay civic body wants to build affordable homes on 5,642 acres of no-development land

MUMBAI: The city’s revised development plan (RDP) envisages creating one million affordable homes to be built on eco-sensitive salt pans and lands designated as no-development zones (NDZs).

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said salt pans demarcated for social housing comprise around 642 acres of the total 5,500 acres in Greater Mumbai. The total NDZ land available for affordable homes is in excess of 5,000 acres. The announcement was made by Ramanath Jha, officer on special deputation for BMC’s development plan, at a media briefing on Wednesday.

In NDZ lands, the land owner will be allowed to keep 50% of the permitted floor space index (FSI), which has now been increased to 2 (owner can avail 35% extra FSI on payment of premium, which takes the total FSI to almost 3). Earlier the FSI on NDZ lands was 0.20 to 0.40. The remaining 50% will be reserved for affordable housing and creating social amenities.

For example, if the NDZ plot is 30,000 sq m, an FSI 2 means the total built-up area available will be 60,000 sq m. Of this, the land owner will be able to exploit 30,000 sq m while the rest will go to BMC for public amenities. The new plan has proposed that 33% of the plot area will have to be kept open, part of it to be converted as public amenities.

The landowner/builder will have to construct affordable homes and hand them over to BMC, which will then hold a lottery to allot them.

For the first time, the cvic agency has introduced a category for creating “reservation for social amenities” on NDZ lands.

“These include building assisted living (old-age homes), rental housing for women and child care centres,” civic chief Ajoy Mehta told TOI.

The commissioner said mangroves and other natural areas within NDZ will be left untouched. “We have categorised them as ‘natural areas’, especially stretches which fall under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ). Absolutely, no development will be allowed in or near these enclaves,” Mehta said.

Civic sources said the controversial draft development plan introduced last year, and which was subsequently stayed by the state government following a public uproar, had selectively opened up only certain NDZ lands for development. “These would have benefitted a handful of builders and land owners. We have now allowed every NDZ land to be developed. No one can accuse us of any bias,” said sources.

In the green Aarey Milk Colony, the BMC has removed all reservations except for the metro car shed, which requires about 74 acres. The proposal for a car shed has led to strong protests from citizens and environmentalists, who plan to approach the court. The civic administration also wants to reserve 617 acres in Aarey for a zoological park. “This zoo will allow animals to roam in their natural surroundings,” said Mehta.

Meanwhile, state government officials expressed surprise that BMC should plan to develop on salt pan lands. Chief secretary Swadhin Kshatriya said any development on salt pan lands would require the concurrence and approval of the Centre.

A senior official said the state government is yet to take a decision on whether to have affordable housing on salt pan lands. Except for a few disputed sites where the state government has staked claim of ownership, all salt pan lands are owned by the government of India.

Officials said the state government had made a proposal to the Centre seeking salt pan lands for affordable housing and even set up a committee headed by the chief secretary to prepare a master plan for salt pan lands. So far the Centre has only sought various kinds of information from the state but no policy has been framed, said an official.

“There are two opinions; one, that affordable housing must be carried out on salt pan lands, and another which points to salt pans being ecologically sensitive and so should not be touched. It is for the Centre to take a decision and unless that decision comes through, we cannot plan anything on these lands,” said an official.

(Inputs by Clara Lewis)

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