MUMBAI: If the BMC's draft Development Plan (DP) 2034 has its way, Mumbaikars will be left gasping for open spaces, especially if plans to develop a vast portion of the Aarey sprawl at Goregaon take off. Post-exploitation, Aarey's existing green cover would be depleted to a mere 14% of its present size.
The Aarey Colony land is spread over 1,619 hectares (around 4,000 acres) of which 378 hectares are already occupied by various dairy units, squatters, tribal padas (hamlets), a guest house, Central Poultry Development Organization, private tabelas (cattle sheds) and shooting sets.
The civic development plan department suggested that the Aarey colony, as public land, can help significantly restructure the growth of the suburbs and greater Mumbai over the next couple of years.
The draft DP proposes new development on 1,009 hectares of Aarey land, leaving only 232 hectares of the pristine green cover intact. Even if the eco-zone's already occupied or encroached area is recovered, the green cover would not exceed 37%.
In other words, the city's natural green lungs will be sacrificed for a man-made central park, a theme park, a botanical garden and other activities, including housing, retailing, educational campuses, a bus corridor and an elevated route connecting the eastern and western suburbs. Of course, the DP has to be cleared by the BMC, but with the same Shiv Sena-BJP combine at the helm, it looks to be a certainty.
"This DP seizes this opportunity and presents the vision of Aarey Colony as a future growth node with the potential to accommodate new commerce, cultural and institutional activities, combined with a provision for large open space infrastructure that the suburbs much require."
The DP expects the state government to help the civic authority in this regard. "Within this broad framework, the DP 2034 suggested that the actual modality of development may be jointly decided by the state government and the BMC at an apposite time in the future," it reads.
The Aarey development plan has been set up on the lines of those in New York City and London. 'The zoo is located at the periphery of the national park in order to enhance compatibility of the users. The central area is proposed to be developed as a large open space infrastructure modelled around New York's Central Park and London's Hyde Park. In the central area, there is also a provision for a large sports complex, which will offer Mumbai an opportunity to host large national and regional sporting events and exhibition spaces for national and international trade shows, performing arts festivals. Other arts and cultural events are also proposed,' states the draft plan.
It has also proposed that large and specialized educational campuses, such as national or state institutes of urban planning, management studies, finance, fashion, design and technology, be housed on Aarey land. The same goes for medical and research campuses, bio-technology and high end research, training and processing units.
An express bus transit route under the BRTS project is proposed to operate on the Eastern and Western express highways connector along with cluster development housing colonies for project affected people. 'If people start living in Aarey, they also need basic amenities, shops (markets) and other services along the bus route, which have also been proposed.' Besides, Aarey is also set to get rail connectivity through the third line of the Metro, which has received approval to build a rail depot within Aarey, said the draft DP. 'The DP also anticipates that with proper planning of Aarey, it could emerge as a significant growth hub in the suburbs.'
The BMC's plans haven't gone down well with naturalists and urban planning experts. "Any long-term economic goals would be unachievable and indeed unsustainable, realistically, without first addressing the dismal decline of the region's ecological assets. Aarey offers us one last opportunity in a city whose planners are hell-bent on taking it to its ecological nadir," said environmentalist Sunjoy Monga. Architect P K Das said "Such an environmental disaster will spell hell for the city. The whole approach should be, Do not touch Aarey."