Circumventing the CRZ: Unlocking Mumbai’s Coastal Real Estate

Every amendment made to the CRZ without public debate undermines a social contract between the central and state government, unions and interest groups to protect the social and ecological future of our coastlines.

By Shweta Wagh & Hussain Indorewala | 30th March 2018

The much-altered Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) has been altered once more. This time, an amendment does away with the requirement of prior environmental clearance – which means that construction can begin without clearance as a “violation,” and clearance can be sought later to “regularise” the violation. This however is possible only for permissible activities.

This relaxation has unsettled many environmentalists, but such amendments to the CRZ, a law originally created to protect the sensitive coastal areas, are notoriously commonplace.

In 2016, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) designated the Mahim and Backbay areas in Mumbai as “bays” rather than as “shoreline”. In one stroke, this semantic innovation reduced the 500-metre CRZ in these areas to 100 meters, clearing the way for numerous luxury residential and commercial projects that were otherwise disallowed.

In a city surrounded by water, this reclassification increased permissible development intensity on thousands of hectares of coastal land. Environmentalists decried it as a “bonanza for builders” as the construction of millions of square meters will now be possible, with all its associated ecological impact on the city. Semantics often have real-world implications.

The CRZ can be traced back to the Environmental Protection Act of 1986. Introduced in 1991 to regulate activities along the coast, the zone includes intertidal areas as well as a rather arbitrary 500-meter landward stretch beyond the high-tide line. It also includes 100 meters on both sides of rivers, creeks and backwaters that experience tidal effects of the sea. One of the communities that wholeheartedly supported the notification when it was introduced were the fisherfolk, who had undertaken numerous campaigns at the national level to resist commercial developments along the coast that impacted their livelihoods.

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Discriminatory Living Standards: FSI, Tenement Densities and Building Controls for Low Income Housing in the RDDP 2016

By Hussain Indorewala | Shweta Wagh

Published on BlogURK 

With an explicit desire to champion the interests of the real estate industry (“ease of doing business”) the recently released Revised Draft Development Plan (RDDP) proposes unprecedented dilutions of development control regulations in the city, especially for rehabilitation projects. In this essay, we will discuss the prescribed norms for Floor Space Index (FSI), tenement densities and environmental controls for low income housing as proposed in the RDDP, and point out how these will create sub-standard living conditions for rehabilitated households. We will show how proposals of the Plan are discriminatory in terms of the access to infrastructure they will provide, as well as the quality of the physical environment they will create.

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Does Mumbai have a shortage of housing? : Scroll Article

Does Mumbai really need 11 lakh more houses?

published in | by Hussain Indorewala

22nd March 2016

It is striking how policy debates on housing devolve very quickly into what can be called the numbers game. The notion of scarcity shapes the assumptions and the approach to the question of housing. This notion is very useful – developers need it, the state can exploit it and architects and designers love it. Numerous seminars and conferences are organised to address this problem of affordable housing which seems to be aimed at understanding not what housing is or what inhabitants need, but to figure out how to make intractable urban dwellers accept the sort of housing that the state-enabled private enterprise can profitably produce.

Let us indulge for the moment in this numbers game….

[read full article here]

Why Maharashtra’s latest plan for Mumbai coastal road is a disaster

By Hussain Indorewala & Shweta Wagh

Published on on 28th August 2015

The Maharashtra government’s plan to build a 34-km coastal road is rapidly running out of friends. The problem for its proponents is that the more they justify it, the more absurd it sounds. The government wants to build a coastal freeway in Mumbai, from Nariman Point in the city’s south to Kandivali in the western suburbs. But the voices of protest against it are growing.

On August 15, hundreds of people joined in protest against the coastal road. Already in July, Mumbai’s fisherfolk decided to unanimously oppose the project. The Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan non-profit group has also issued its own statement condemning what it called a “futile” investment at the expense of the social sector and calling for “real and practical” transport alternatives.

The project now has two versions: a Rs 8,000-crore joint technical committee version that came out in 2011 and a newer, Rs 12,000 crore, detailed project report that was opened up for public comments recently. Objections to the new plan have now prompted its apologists to suggest alterations, such as doing away with the under-sea tunnels and building stilted roads over mangroves. But as we pointed out in an earlier article, the problem is the project itself, not its alignment.

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Why the Coastal Road is a mistake Mumbai cannot afford to make

By Shweta Wagh & Hussain Indorewala

Published in the DNA | 28th July 2015

On July 26, 2005, more than a 1000 people perished due to flooding on the streets of Mumbai – the result of high intensity rainfall of 380 mm for three hours. This year, we saw flooding after rainfall of 38 mm/hour, so one can only imagine the disaster that rainfall of an intensity anywhere close to 2005 levels might cause.

The new drainage system in the city is still incomplete and has been under construction for the past 20 years. At Rs 1,200 crores, it costs one tenth of what the city will spend on the Coastal Road – which will make the city even more vulnerable to floods. The decision to invest in such unnecessary mega projects indicates the glaring disregard for the city’s real needs and problems, ignorance of social and environmental consequences and a criminal waste of public resources.

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The biggest flaw in Mumbai’s Development Plan: it misunderstands both development and planning

By Hussain Indorewala

Published on on 18th April 2015

Mumbai’s new draft development plan has evoked massive public outrage. The plan, which may serve as the urban planning blueprint for the city for the next 20 years, has been criticised as patently myopic, misdirected, inaccurate and in essence disastrous. But none of this uproar has upset the plan’s author, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. The corporation has dismissed all criticism of the draft as based either on a misreading or a misunderstanding. It fails to realise that a cross-section of Mumbai’s residents have raised objections not simply to this proposal or that – but to the conception, the framework and the process that has fashioned this plan. What is being challenged here is not what the development plan means for Mumbai – but what the planners mean by “development” and “planning”.

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Mumbai’s Docklands – Cutting the Cake

by Hussain Indorewala

published on Kafila on February 17 2015

In the early 1970s, a conservative government in the UK set up a study group for the London Docklands. Its report, which focused primarily on exploiting the commercial potential of the docklands, was torn up and thrown out by local community groups and the local boroughs. Later, in 1974, a strategic-planning authority called the Docklands Joint Committee (DJC) was set up to plan the area. This committee included, along with central and local government representatives, the Port of London Authority and trade unions; it was also associated with the Docklands Forum, which was a group that represented various sections of the public, including “militant community groups.”[i] The DJC along with the Docklands Forum adopted a radically new approach to planning: it instituted a bottom-up process, working with communities entailing a “delicate, even tentative, negotiated style of planning.” The planner was now the “servant of the public” and the “large-scale, top-down, professionally oriented planning” was replaced with its opposite.[ii] Significantly, the DJC came up with a comprehensive plan – the London Docklands Strategic Plan of 1976 – that was based on the preservation of manufacturing, creation of social housing, and social programs for residents of the area. So progressive it seemed, that it never got realised. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the UK, drowning any little hope that remained.

Flying over London, in the mid-70s, Thatcher’s Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine had found “appalling proof” that the various committees, reports, discussions were hopeless, and since everyone was involved, “no one was in charge.” New legislation was written, that created powers to establish Enterprise Zones and Urban Development Corporations. The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was created in 1981 as the planning authority for 5,500 acres of the dock areas. Entrepreneurial in style, ideologically committed to private enterprise, the LDDC did little planning, and used consultants who provided guiding frameworks that were flexible and demand-led, and focused more on implementation rather than planning. Heseltine wanted the LDDC to be “seen to do things” and liberated from “the inevitable delays of the democratic process.”[iii] The LDDC as an Urban Development Corporation was run by a board appointed by the central government, giving local authorities very little power, which they refused to use anyway. The problem of too much democracy was solved by excluding residents from the planning process.

…Read full article here