Policymakers have been pragmatic to pave the way to develop Mumbai vertically. The Mumbai Development Plan 2034, approved by the Maharashtra government, has raised the floor space index (FSI), which is the ratio between the built-up area and the plot size, both for commercial and residential buildings. Ideally, the FSI should have been scrapped, with height restrictions mandated only by flight safety and structural soundness. This would have further raised the built-up space in the island city.
Many critics allege the state government is going all out to please the real estate lobby. There are other niggling worries such as lack of clarity on how congested the plan would leave the city’s roads, drains, parks and schools. Has epidemic preparedness, for example, been taken into account? These structures could also be vulnerable to earthquakes. All these must be addressed.
That said, vertical growth will increase the supply of housing stock, and generate more funds to boost urban infrastructure. A taller building can accommodate more people, and lead to an overall reduction in energy consumption. Sound engineering stipulations and strict rules should be in place to hold builders and contractors to account if they are found to be negligent and compromise on the building quality. There must also be norms for infrastructure such as parking, sewerage, water supply, telecom connectivity, waste-disposal and so on that matches with the increase in vertical building permits to house people and businesses. Regulatory changes to faster urbanisation will boost the economy. Hopefully, Mumbai’s new plan will be worth emulating in other cities.