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From the Firstpost

An interesting article that explores the link between urban planning and women’s safety


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Less Plans on Paper, More Practical Thinking Needed for Mumbai

As the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai progresses its newest 20-year Development Plan for the city, Kristen Teutonico considers the barren legacy of past plans and argues that many small interventions might do more for the city than a grand plan that may ultimately be ignored entirely.

This article has been taken from The Global Urbanist –

As Mumbai drafts its Development Plan for the next 20 years, it is apparent that not much has changed in the last forty. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) publishes plans on a 20-year cycle, and is in the midst of working on the latest edition for 2014-2034. While the MCGM oversees the production of the plan, the proposals are being detailed and executed by Groupe SCE India, a company that has been working with planning authorities and local urban bodies in India for over eight years.

The Development Plans always seem to hold the answers for a balanced and socioeconomically rational city. But while they go into great detail on paper, the city never quite follows through on the implementation with equal rigour.


The planning of Mumbai is regulated by the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act of 1966, which extends to the whole of the state of Maharashtra excluding the city of Nagpur, and which requires every local authority to prepare a development plan for the area within its jurisdiction allocating land for different uses — residential, commercial, agricultural, etc. — and reserve sites required for public purposes such as schools, playgrounds, hospitals, parks, roads and highways.

The first Development Plan for Greater Mumbai was prepared for 1964 to 1981, and revised for 1981 to 2001, though only sanctioned between 1991 and 1993, and even then with only 12 per cent of it being implemented. In 1981 as in 1964, the region suffered from haphazard sprawl, the overzoning of lands for industrial purposes especially in outlying villages like Kalyan (dairy) and Bhiwandi (textiles), inadequate infrastructure and housing, and general traffic and transportation problems. All of which, as of the end of 2012, are still alarmingly present.

The main problem is that development proceeds before government papers are signed but after money is exchanged. By the time the 2014-2034 plan is printed, the peripheral areas it must be concerned with will have already shifted from a rural landscape to an urban condition with all the problems of the existing city, recognised but not addressed thirty years ago.

Government and policy makers acknowledge that the city needs help but time and money — a classic partnership — ultimately determine what gets done and who it favours. Planning is expedient only for the wealthy, from billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s famous 27-storey home built in the absence of effective zoning or land ownership regulations, to the underused Bandra-Worli Sea Link connecting affluent western suburbs to the downtown area, which cost 16 billion Indian Rupees (186 million British Pounds) yet operates at only 15 per cent capacity due to its exclusionary toll of 55 rupees (64 pence).

Given its track record, how can Mumbai expect to maintain a grip on its planning while capitalist development pops up overnight? The MCGM needs to reinvent the way it approaches urbanisation to be able to engage with the city and its people at the heady pace they operate on.


Regardless of what is drawn, written, stamped or agreed upon, the appeal of instantaneous creation and economic gain will continue to be the drivers of Mumbai’s urban growth. Until corruption and elitism are more tightly constrained, problems will continue to plague the city and the majority of Mumbaikars who cannot afford to pay to do ‘as they please’.

In the meantime, rather than grand abstract plans every twenty years, what the city needs more of are practical and proactive thinking to pinpoint problems and solve them with articulated design solutions that have timelines, budgets and schemes that are easily attained. Such factors led to the new bus loops in downtown Mumbai which provide an efficient and clean service for tourists and walkers who inundate the sidewalks. The entire route cost 5 rupees and a bus swings past every five minutes. New bus routes such as these through congested areas of the city can alleviate traffic, reduce noise and pollution, and promote sustainable urban life.

The scheme was developed and executed by the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), an NGO tasked with improving the urban environment through research, information provision and public engagement in planning processes. In response to the ongoing preparation of the 2014-2034 Development Plan, UDRI is initiating a public participation programme in which stakeholder groups consisting of NGOs, researchers, former government officers and experts, working in sectors such as health, education and the environment, come together to study the needs of the city and make recommendations to the MCGM. The process not only allows citizens working in different portfolio areas to understand how planning affects their sector and to have a voice within it; it also puts pressure on the MCGM to see the wider public demanding solutions to real problems.

In the recent exhibition ‘Open Mumbai’, the architect P. K. Das proposed a constellation of new public spaces throughout the 24 wards of the city. The project was created to show the MCGM what Mumbai has the potential to be and how, in the architects’ terminology, ‘to create non-barricaded, non-exclusive, and non-elitist spaces.’ Embracing and enforcing these spaces would give the government plans and ideas already thoroughly researched and designed; the only task for government is to execute them.

Concretely implementing public participation in planning, building new public spaces, and establishing new bus routes are only three examples of small-scale initiatives that Mumbai can begin to embrace. New regulations regarding parking, noise (such as honking) and the amount of vehicles allowed in certain areas each day will also start to promote a more positive urban condition.

Problems such as sprawl, housing and transportation will continue to plague Mumbai as long as the government continues to pretend to put all its faith into a thoroughly planned city-wide manifesto that is ultimately tossed aside. Large answers are not always the way to deal with large problems, and the web of tangles in Mumbai is too complex to unravel in one grand sweep. In rethinking the grandiose nature of the Development Plan, perhaps the government can engage in smaller scale implementation ss and allow new regulations and ideas to take centre stage so that Mumbai can begin to envision its future and move beyond its paper urbanity.



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Meeting regarding Development Plan 2014

We thank you for your commitment to participating in the development planning process for Mumbai.

The Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) has been in dialogue with the MCGM regarding the DP and has requested numerous rectifications to the Existing Land Use (ELU) Plan prepared by them both at a micro and macro level. We have also presented these to the Municipal Commissioner who has instructed the DP department to take these suggestions into consideration. However at this time we are unable to ascertain to what extent these suggested rectifications are being included in the ELU plan for Mumbai. Also at this time the MCGM’s DP consultants have not yet completed and released TASK 3 of the DP process which is to provide an analysis of the ELU plan.

We appreciate that many of you have done your own ground surveys to verify the ELU Plan and have written in to the MCGM with your comments and corrections. In order to provide a more cohesive thrust to all our work, the UDRI is organising a meeting of all the stakeholders who have shown an interest in participating in this development planning process. This details of this meeting are as follows:

Date: 21st November 2012 (Wednesday)

Time: 4.00 pm

Venue: Urban Design Research Institute, No 43, Dr V B Gandhi Marg, Kalaghoda , Fort, Mumbai 400 023

At this meeting, we would like to share our findings and encourage you to bring with you any correspondence you may have already sent after your verification surveys. We would also use this gathering to consider the next steps that each of you would be able to engage in. I would like to clarify however, that the intent of the meeting is only to discuss development plan issues that affect ALL and not individual land issues that are personal in nature.

We look forward to seeing you at the UDRI.



UDRI requests your help to Ground Truth the Existing Land Use Plan

As you may have read in recent news articles,(please see attached) the BMC has said that the mistake in the Existing Land Use Map is an error in the colouring of the map. The MCGM claims that six educational institutions that should have been marked as RED and ‘E’ (for educational) were marked in blue and ‘C’ (for commercial) due to an error in making the pdf file. This, the MCGM say, has occurred only in ‘A’Ward.

We would therefore request all of you who are currently ground checking the ELU plan in your area to share your findings with UDRI as early as possible so that we may follow up on this with the MCGM.

A – To indicate the site please do one of the following

1)Send us a Google earth image which will clearly indicate the location as well as road name and area where the site is located.


2) Indicate the Longitude and Latitude of the site (geocode)

B – Then tell us what the error is in respect to the Existing Land Use Plan

The ELU plan shows something different than what is on site then that is a definite mistake in the ELU survey

If you want the UDRI list of possible errors for your area AND / OR the high resolution ELU plan for your area, please send us an email and come down with a pen drive to meet us.

Every error you are able to identify will be of value to us in pushing for the rectification of the ELU plan.


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City, warts & all

by Shanta Gokhale

If we want an all-round view of the city we live in, with all its warts displayed and all its complexities examined, mumbaireader ’10, published by the Urban Research Design Institute, is the book for us.

The cover photograph that wraps the front and back of the book, captures an important story about our city. Dingy tenements stand in the background, their compound walls sheltering assorted debris. The middle ground is held by a driverless autorickshaw. The foreground is a stretch of brown, pebbly earth with two dusty trees occupying the very edge.

Inside, one is greeted by a visually stimulating environment of colourful ward maps, reproductions of newspaper articles related to the subjects under discussion, and telling photographs in both black-and-white and colour interspersed  with the text. There are articles, essays and analyses here, contributed byacademics, journalists, environmentalists and local historians, that cover every aspect of life in Mumbai— housing, health, livelihood, transportation, education, open space, governance, urban form.The visuals weave through them as a parallel text, adding meaning here and making points that are tangential to the argument there. With the visuals, the process of reading, or even dipping into thebook, becomes more dynamic than one would normally expect.

Obviously, this is not a book meant to be read at a stretch like fiction. My first read, very stimulating, was a hop, skip and jump through its pages, guided by visuals that caught my eye. A photograph of the circular sweep of Elphinstone (now Horniman) Circle as it was around 1864 led me to Preeti Chopra’s study of how Bombay was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With great wistfulness I read that the then municipal commissioners “were of the opinion that the design of the buildings around the circle should have some degree of architectural nicety, which will harmonise with the Town Hall”. Later,the word harmony appears to have dropped out of the municipal lexicon altogether.

A black-and-white double spread of Bandra Fort which I had never seen from this angle before, took me to Vyjayanthi Rao’s study on urban development. “The City is Not One”, says a sub-head in the article, encapsulating Rao’s main argument. She points out that, unless the heterogeneity of the city is made the premise for planning, designing and building, it can never become “a space of refuge” for all its citizens. In Mumbai the citizens include, (whether the upper and middle-classes like it or not), slumdwellers, migrants and people displaced by infrastructural projects. To include them all to “create a space of refuge” is the ideal of planners and designers. But our politicians think otherwise. They simplify matters by excluding this large chunk of the city’s population, leaving it to fend for itself.

The newspaper headline Revenge of the Commuter is the next visual that leapt out at me from the middle of Nidhi Jamwal’s article Mumbai’s Pedestrain Paradox. This study begins by telling us that 52 per cent of road users in Mumbai walk, and only three per cent ride in private vehicles. So who’s the majority here? Why then is the city not made walkable? Why must pedestrians be forced to dodge ‘caaars’, trucks, dumpers, buses, autos and speeding bikes, putting their lives at risk every time they step out of their homes? Why can we not have footpaths, unoccupied ones, please?

If we look back on how Mumbai was built a hundred years ago, we grow wistful. If we look at the city in its present form, we feel frustrated. Does the future at least hold a promise that we can look forward to? Darryl D’Monte’s article Flawed Urban Vision puts paid to that hope. The famous Mumbai First plan of 2003 to transform Mumbai into a world-class city, was a dream we didn’t believe in even then, and which began dying a natural death almost as soon as it was born. The reason, says D’Monte, is that the “managerial-technocratic view” the vision took of the city did not accommodate its diversity. Back to square one.

Last year in March, D’Monte informs us, a 40-year plan for Mumbai, prepared by a team of Singapore consultants known as Surbana, was unveiled at the State Guest House. The plan projected a slumless city by 2052. And? “One of the weakest links in the plan is the generation of jobs….Without a clear vision on how Mumbai… will employ the majority of its citizens, most will continue to Fester in slums.”

In short, the future is bleak.

This is from Shanta Gokhale’s column in the Mumbai Mirror dated October 25, 2012


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India Ink blog

How the paucity of open spaces is impacting public health in Mumbai

From The New York Times