“If Mum­bai does not fix hous­ing prob­lem soon, it will lose out to other cities”

Governance Now - - INTERVIEW - gee­tan­jali@gov­er­nan­cenow.com

A 1977 batch IAS of­fi­cer, Jha has writ­ten a book, ‘Ur­ban Es­says’, and co-au­thored ‘To­wards Peo­ple Friendly Cities’ pub­lished by the UNICEF. He was the ed­i­tor of the ‘City Devel­op­ment Strat­egy for Hy­der­abad’ pub­lished by the UN-HABI­TAT. The ur­ban devel­op­ment ex­pert talked to Gee­tan­jali Min­has about ways to make Mum­bai a sus­tain­able city.

What makes a city cit­i­zen-friendly?

A city has to be a multi-prod­uct or­gan­i­sa­tion. We need to ad­dress the re­quire­ments of the en­tire gamut of ci­ti­zens who live in a city and then make it cit­i­zen-friendly. You have old peo­ple, men, women, chil­dren, pro­fes­sion­als, peo­ple with dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties who need ser­vices. since 2000 the world has moved ahead in terms of thought process by imag­in­ing how a city ought to be. in in­dia, 30-40 years ago we never thought of hav­ing devel­op­ment con­trol reg­u­la­tions (Dcr), now called Devel­op­ment con­trol and Pro­mo­tion reg­u­la­tions (Dcpr), that would es­pe­cially

fac­tor in the re­quire­ments of dif­fer­ently abled peo­ple. Now it is manda­tory. if we are not able to do that we can­not be called a cit­i­zen-friendly city.

How can we make Mum­bai sus­tain­able?

We are talk­ing of a city which is al­ready to­tally built. While do­ing Mum­bai’s devel­op­ment plan (DP) the fac­tor which came to light was that al­most 95-96 per­cent of the city that can be built is al­ready built and there is very lit­tle va­cant land avail­able. in terms of sus­tain­abil­ity what has hap­pened has hap­pened. now you have to see how you can make the city bet­ter in terms of live­abil­ity, which is a dif­fi­cult propo­si­tion af­ter you have gone this far.

How can we talk of city sus­tain­abil­ity as a whole – that is a ques­tion that has been dis­turb­ing me. i have got a few an­swers. A city is the most com­plex en­tity that hu­mans have cre­ated. It is dif­fi­cult to find how ex­actly you in­tend to cre­ate a sus­tain­able city.

if a city is not eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able then it col­lapses. For ex­am­ple, Detroit in

USA was a car man­u­fac­tur­ing hub. But af­ter in­roads were made by the

Ja­pa­nese and Ger­man cars, the Amer­i­can cars got side­lined. As a re­sult,

Detroit’s own mar­ket col­lapsed. eco­nom­i­cally, a few years ago it had to de­clare it­self as a bank­rupt city. And as soon as the econ­omy col­lapsed the crime rate in­creased, peo­ple did not have jobs and started mov­ing out.

There­fore, eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity is an es­sen­tial part of any city.

How­ever, if you are only eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able and not en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able it is again a huge prob­lem. You can do your job but if there is no con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for qual­ity of life then the city will get hit. There has to be a bal­ance for eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity.

You have to go fur­ther. For in­stance, you make the city eco­nom­i­cally vi­able and give good qual­ity of life, but you are not able to make it avail­able to all ci­ti­zens. like the mid­dle class and the rich have what they want but the poor do not have what they want, then it be­comes a sit­u­a­tion, which many global cities face, where the poor work in cities but end up liv­ing in slums. This is not the right en­vi­ron­ment to live and has im­pli­ca­tions in terms of city sus­tain­abil­ity as it af­fects hy­giene and den­sity where a whole group of peo­ple live in in­hu­mane con­di­tions. The fact that you did not bal­ance the econ­omy with the en­vi­ron­ment and eq­uity makes it an im­bal­anced city. so you have to have a proper bal­ance be­tween at least th­ese three things – econ­omy, en­vi­ron­ment and eq­uity of the city.

At the or­gan­i­sa­tional level In­dian cities are highly cen­tralised and ci­ti­zens have lit­tle say in their ad­min­is­tra­tion. Also there are too many agen­cies that don’t speak to each other. Your views?

When we talk of cities we have to talk of the con­sti­tu­tional frame­work in our coun­try. We be­gin with the 74th amend­ment passed in 1992 and its state­ments of ob­jects and rea­sons. The con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment stated that we have to de­liver cities that are self-gov­ern­ing in­sti­tu­tions and em­pow­ered. it said that in in­dia cities are not em­pow­ered be­cause states have a stran­gle­hold over cities and they merely work as agents of the state. There­fore, the amend­ment was an at­tempt to de­liver the cities from stran­gle­hold of the state.

Un­for­tu­nately, it did not go far enough in terms of pro­vi­sions that would de­liver such self-gov­ern­ing in­sti­tu­tions. in terms of plan­ning, strengths of city have been taken away in chunks. We have a huge num­ber of plan­ning au­thor­i­ties. Ma­ha­rash­tra is slightly bet­ter off as func­tions are per­formed more or less in full­ness com­pared to other states. so the im­me­di­ate fact is that our cities are not em­pow­ered enough to gov­ern them­selves. in such a cen­tralised sys­tem where ev­ery time you have to go up to ask an­swers or seek per­mis­sions to do cer­tain things, gov­er­nance be­comes ex­tremely dif­fi­cult. Huge pop­u­la­tion keeps com­ing in, ev­ery city is grow­ing at break­neck speed and de­spite that your abil­ity to take de­ci­sions is de­pen­dent on so many other peo­ple. This has to stop. There is no point in blam­ing the cities alone be­cause the re­spon­si­bil­ity lies at all lev­els.

Then what is the way for­ward?

As the amend­ments were not able to de­liver what was in­tended, there are only two op­tions. Go back to the con­sti­tu­tion and amend it in a man­ner so that it re­ally de­liv­ers em­pow­ered in­sti­tu­tions of self-gov­er­nance at ur­ban lo­cal bodies (ULB) level or en­light­ened states can walk that path be­cause ur­ban devel­op­ment is a state sub­ject. so it is up to the state to amend its statutes and cre­ate a sys­tem where you have self-gov­er­nance. We have plenty of lit­er­a­ture and many ex­am­ples around the world. We can do it with our own genius and own so­cial and eco­nomic con­text, but this has to be done.

While the DP is yet to be re­leased in its en­tirety, it has var­i­ous pro­vi­sions – like us­ing floor space in­dex (FSI) as a fis­cal tool and open­ing up 2,100 hectares of no devel­op­ment zones – that may not help in holis­tic devel­op­ment of the city. Your com­ments?

Hous­ing is one of the ma­jor is­sues in Mum­bai and if it is not fixed Mum­bai will lose out to other cities. It’s al­ready happening. Mum­bai’s to­tal con­tri­bu­tion to the econ­omy is go­ing down. Peo­ple are mov­ing out of Mum­bai and com­ing for work [only]. Mum­bai has a short­age of one mil­lion af­ford­able homes. The un­sold in­ven­tory is

“If you are only eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able and not en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able it is again a huge prob­lem. You can do your job but if there is no con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for qual­ity of life then the city will get hit.”

“It is time we start think­ing what kind of den­si­ties we should al­low in a city as it is ob­vi­ous that when the den­si­ties go high, cities be­come un­live­able.”

not af­ford­able hous­ing. no one is build­ing af­ford­able homes ex­cept partly by slum re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Author­ity (sra) and by Ma­ha­rash­tra Hous­ing and Area Devel­op­ment Author­ity (MHADA) in small num­bers. To fix this you need land and that is what the DP is all about. it is about land spe­cial plan­ning. We have said that what­ever land is build­able and avail­able in the city will be re­leased only if you build af­ford­able hous­ing.

For nomen­cla­ture [pur­pose] it is called NDZ [no devel­op­ment zone] but that does not mean it is un-de­vel­op­men­tal en­vi­ron­men­tal land be­cause all en­vi­ron­men­tal land has been put into nat­u­ral area. so erst­while 75 per­cent of NDZ land has gone into nat­u­ral ar­eas be­cause it is en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive and you can­not build on it. in the DP we have put con­di­tions for com­ing out of it, oth­er­wise it will re­main NDZ.

The gov­ern­ment of in­dia has al­ready de­cided on which en­vi­ron­men­tal salt pan land no con­struc­tion can hap­pen and on which it can. We have picked up only a part of that land, as the gov­ern­ment has plans to build af­ford­able hous­ing. The PM Awas Yo­jana is go­ing to be im­ple­mented on the gov­ern­ment land as well as on salt pan land, the MBPT (Mum­bai Port Trust) land. it is in this sense that the cen­tre, the state, lo­cal bodies and the ci­ti­zens who own land have to get to­gether and de­liver af­ford­able hous­ing in the city.

To ac­quire the said land from the cen­tral and state gov­ern­ments will re­quire a change in law. Se­cond, the land in pri­vate hands de­mands a great deal of lob­by­ing be­fore it can be se­cured. Your views?

Why should we take the land from the gov­ern­ment? it should build homes for peo­ple. For ex­am­ple, MBPT can build and de­velop hous­ing for slums that were within its own premises, be­cause we are not say­ing that af­ford­able hous­ing is for peo­ple who come from any­where. There will be a def­i­ni­tion of who can own this af­ford­able hous­ing. it is to re­set­tle peo­ple who are al­ready part of Mum­bai and par­tic­i­pat­ing in its eco­nomic life.

For pri­vate land there is a for­mula. For in­stance, if you want to come out of the NDZ land which is pri­vate then 34 per­cent of the land would be of the owner, the rest comes into the pub­lic kitty. But the owner who is go­ing to build homes will be paid in terms of Fsi and hous­ing is to be handed over to us. For pre­par­ing hous­ing of this kind he will be given 20 per­cent of the cost of sale for he will have to raise loans, make prepa­ra­tions and have man­age­ment costs. since land cost be­comes zero, the only cost that will go into af­ford­able hous­ing is the cost of con­struc­tion and some man­age­ment cost. For a 30 sq me­tre house un­der PMAY, i be­lieve, would be sold for lit­tle less than ₹10 lakh per home.

But this will add to the ex­ist­ing pres­sure on in­fra­struc­ture and util­i­ties be­sides mak­ing the city denser.

This will ob­vi­ously have in­fra­struc­ture around it and land will be pro­vided for ar­te­rial roads. For the rest, only if the devel­op­ment hap­pens as per Dcr then you get per­mis­sion. so in­fra­struc­ture goes hand in hand. in western coun­tries, cur­rently the plan­ners are de­bat­ing and ask­ing cities to den­sify as they are eco­nom­i­cally vi­able yet there are not enough eyes on road, dan­ger of se­cu­rity and safety in cities. But they are talk­ing of den­si­ties of 500-1,000 per­sons per sq km. Their larger cities are not more than 10,000 peo­ple per sq km whereas Mum­bai has 30,000 peo­ple per sq km. it is time we start think­ing what kind of den­si­ties we should al­low in a city as it is ob­vi­ous that when the den­si­ties go high, cities be­come un­live­able. We are reach­ing at a sit­u­a­tion where some cities have den­si­ties which they will not be able to sus­tain.

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