In 24 years, BMC hasn’t acquired 3,665 plots meant to develop amenities for Mumbaikars

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has in the past 24 years failed to acquire a staggering 3,665 plots reserved for various civic amenities across Mumbai. The Shiv Sena-ruled civic body has acquired only 1,938 of 5,603 such plots since Development Plan (DP) 1991 came into effect in 1994.

In the DP, several plots – owned by private individuals and government bodies – are reserved for amenities such as playgrounds, recreation grounds, gardens, healthcare centres, and fire stations, among others. The civic body is expected to acquire these plots by paying compensation to the owners and build amenities for Mumbaiites.

The DP 2034, which replaced DP 1991 in September last year, has 5,825 plots reserved for amenities for the next 20 years. Most of these have been carried forward from DP 1991.

In the past few weeks, the Sena has been facing flak over its unwillingness to acquire such plots. The Opposition has alleged the move could benefit plot owners, as many of these plots are located in prime areas.

Civic officials cite several reasons – lack of funds, owners moving court, encroachments, low compensation and political pressure – for the BMC’s failure to acquire the plots. In some of the recent cases, including those of six plots in Goregaon and Poisar, the civic improvements committee has rejected proposals to acquire the plots claiming they were encroached upon.

Chief engineer (DP), Rajendra Zope, and other senior BMC officials are reluctant to speak specifically about the BMC’s failure to acquire the plot so far. “The Development Control and Promotion Regulations 2034 provisions will encourage land owners to come for development under Accommodation Reservation concept in a big manner, which will be helpful for faster implementation of DP,” said Zope.

Opposition leader in the civic body, Ravi Raja, alleged the delay in acquisition or refusal to acquire the plot is often aimed at benefitting private parties. “When a reservation lapses owing to refusal to acquire the land or delay in acquisition, the owner can develop the entire plot and get commercial benefits, which are not the same when the land is handed over to the civic body,” said Raja. “Most times, the plot is not acquired owing to encroachments, and in that case, if the owner gets the complete land then he/she will be able to develop the entire plot under Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) schemes, which offers huge benefits.”

Senior Sena leader Vishakha Raut, who is the leader of the civic house, hinted at encroachments being one of the primary reasons for the civic body’s failure to acquire plots. “Acquisition of plots has to be prioritised…” said Raut, a former mayor, adding that the BMC needs to decide on a deadline and rehabilitate eligible residents moved away from the plots. “I have written a letter to the commissioner asking for a fixed policy and seeking plots that are cleared to be acquired first.”

Urban planner Pankaj Joshi feels the BMC does not view the DP as a project, or else the implementation rate would be higher. “Implementing the current DP is going to be even more difficult as the TDR rates are crashing and so developers will opt for monetary benefits, especially when the new land acquisition act offers three times the market value for the same plot.”

Renowned Right to Information (RTI) activist Shailesh Gandhi said: “Corruption is the key for most of the implementation issues. Developers will always find a loophole and politicians and bureaucrats will facilitate the delay in acquisition.”

Addressing the difficulties in acquiring plots, the civic body has now offered multiple incentives – additional Floor Space Index (FSI) and TDR (Transferable Development Rights) that can be used across the city – to plot owners. “In the earlier DP, the incentives were not so attractive and so many private owners did not give up their land and there were pending court cases too,” said an official from the DP department. “Also, the TDR which was given could not be used in the island city, but now we have changed that. It can be used across the city and in any zones, be it residential or commercial.”

First Published: Jan 11, 2019 14:06 IST

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