Govt sets bar low for living standards in Mumbai

The city’s public infrastructure has always failed to keep pace with the demands of a growing population. And with the latest Development Plan—a blueprint for land use over the next two decades—the pattern appears set to continue.
Per capita norms prescribed in DP 2018-2034 for amenities in Mumbai like education, healthcare and open spaces fall short of even national standards for urban spaces, not to speak of global benchmarks.
For instance, the DP has proposed 1.57 square metres per capita for educational facilities in the city compared to a standard of 3.58 sq metres under Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) guidelines framed in consultation with planners by the urban development ministry.
Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) said, “At a time when the DP plans to densify the city by increasing FSI, such amenities would be needed.”
Even per capita open space proposed in the latest Development Plan (DP) is only around a third of the area prescribed under the URDPFI guidelines (see graphic). As for social amenities such as markets, auditoriums and crematoriums, the allocated land adds up to barely 10% of the prescribed norm per resident.
To be fair, the DP, approved by the state this week, has enjoined an overall push towards greater use of land for public facilities, be it open spaces, educational areas, markets or health infrastructure. It seeks to raise per capita allocation for every amenity from existing levels in the 1991-2017 plan. However, standards still remain below those inscribed in the national policy.
When asked why the bar was being set lower for Mumbai, municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta said per capita distribution of resources would appear skewed owing to the population density. Mumbai, spread over roughly 450 square km, is home to more than 12 million people, making it the second most crowded urban centre in the world. The BMC chief said an effort would be made in years to come to optimize the use of land for public use.
Planners, however, said the framework did not hold out hope for improvements in quality of life. Joshi of UDRI said for a “global city”, it seemed odd that Mumbai could not meet even national standards for public infrastructure. “Our planning is so squeezed that while we are patting our back for improving standards, it is nowhere close to the required level,” he said.
Architect PK Das said given that increase in land allocation for public amenities was meagre, an effort must now be made to evenly distribute their availability. “It would be ideal to make these mandatory in every redevelopment project,” he said.
Nayana Kathpalia, the trustee of the NGO NAGAR which champions the cause of safeguarding open spaces, said in the prevailing situation and given that the civic body’s past record has been far from creditable, “BMC needs to aggressively get behind developing allocated amenity space, which would also ensure that larger part of the DP is implemented.”
Activist Atul Kumar from the Nariman Point Churchgate Citizens Association (NPCCA) struck a pessimistic note saying the proposed increase in amenity spaces was unlikely to benefit the existing population, given the steady influx into the city which added pressure on its resources.

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