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By Dr. Sanjay Chaturvedi, LLB, PhD.

The Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act of 1966, employs the Term Development Plan and indicates a variety of things, but is a mere land-use plan. It also contains the Development Control Rules (DC Rules). Which regulate the Character of buildings and density of population allowed in a specified area.

The City’s godfathers who approved the Draft plan perhaps sincerely believed that the Plan would improve the quality of life but some of the prescriptions of the Plan have had the opposite. The prescribed density ceiling for ordinary housing was 200 tenements per net hectare. The FSI concept was based on the land price level and the population potential as assessed by the planners in pursuit of the decongestion concept. The high prevailing FSI in the Island city was reduced in the late seventies to 1.33, while it was fixed at 1 for the suburbs, and 0.75 and 0.5 for certain areas in the M, N, P (North) and R wards. Now since the situation is changed the plan and provisions must the reviewed.
There is much meaning in the claim that the city’s housing problem is not so much due to physical shortage of land, as unhelpful building regulations and an unresponsive urban government, that constrained the supply of available land in the market and precluded the construction of affordable housing.

The Kerkar Committee, appointed by the state government in 1981, pointed out that the state government owns about 8088 acres of open land (about 5886 acres in the western tip of Borivli, 156 acres in the western suburb of Andheri, and 2046 acres in the eastern Kurla), of which 6400 acres are marshy land, and 1272 acres are hilly, and most of the land has been placed in the no-development zone owing to the difficulty of development. About 3000 acres of land belonging to the government and public bodies are reported to be under encroachment, and about 5000 acres of land are in the ownership of private individuals, but can technically be acquired. About 7000 acres of land are lying vacant, mainly in the suburbs, having been placed in the industrial zone, and some of this can be developed for housing the industrial workers.

The initial estimate of vacant land under the Urban Ceiling Act was around 20,000 acres, though it must be lesser area now after all the exemptions and scrutiny of returns. These land are now have become No Men’s Land since no political will nor regulations allow them to develop. Salt Pan Land should be used for habitation if not for public utility purposes. After all, these can be relocated for want of expansion of the city.

In additional to this, the Central government agencies are in possession of vast areas of land in both the Island city and suburbs. These include: 1) the Bombay Port Trust, with some 2000 acres or a third of the Central Bombay area; 2) the Defense Department with over 1000 acres of prime land in South Bombay, and smaller areas in the suburbs, all held apparently for security reasons; 3) the Western and the Central Railways, holding land in the suburbs, usually near the railway tracks; 4) the Internal Airport Authority holding a lot of land in its jurisdiction in Western suburbs; and 5) the Salt Department with over 200 hectares of land under slat pans, much of which can be converted to residential purpose. Their development would, of course call for the recasting of the development plan and for planning the extension of infrastructure of water supply, sewerage, electricity, roads, and social facilities to additional vacant lands in the suburbs.
We need urgent upgradation on Land use pattern. Even after century, Salt Pan Land and Land belongs to Port Trust remain unused. When we have shifted Port to Nahva Seva, why need dockyard in the city. Many land is locked in No Development Zone. After scrapping ULC, land being the scare commodity and Raw Material for Real Estate Development, must be given a second thought for release for residential purposes.

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