There are a number of synergies between the Smart City Mission of the Centre and Mumbai's Revised Draft Development Plan (RDDP) 2034, finds Prachi Merchant, Head, Draft Development Plan, BMC.
'Has the Mumbai Revised Draft Development Plan (RDDP) 2034 of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) taken into the consideration the urban reforms suggested in the Smart City concepts launched by the Central government?' asked a senior colleague in a typically criticising tone, while the RDDP was still being prepared. Having been a part of the RDDP core team, it was natural for me to go on a defensive mode. However, I chose to make a sincere attempt to draw parallels or differences of these two planning interventions taken up by the same Government, one at the Central and other at the local level. The reason to intervene in this topic was further reinforced, when I was asked to write about it in INFRASTRUCTURE TODAY's Anniversary issue.
To start with, the definition of a Smart City changes from country, city and area. Western countries are much more advanced and hence the concept is more connected to the IT-related smart solutions superimposed on urban plans. In India, as the formal urban planning field is still evolving, it's best to assume its definition at a very basic level. The Smart City mission too keeps the definition of Smart City open ended, which fortunately gives the liberty to mould the Smart City concept to suit its definition to the context of the place. The mission also clarifies that the Smart City mission shall be taken as a guiding document, and that a city is free to add or develop contextual ideas to it.
Urban planning in India is still evolving. Starting from Five-Year Plans which concentrated on piecemeal urban sector-based planning approach in housing, transport, social and physical infrastructure, environment, etc., to preparation of development plans, town planning schemes and regional plans, urban planning has yet to find its official place in government planning authorities pan India. In recent years, the idea of comprehensive city planning has been floating around and is packaged under the brand names of æsustainable/resilient/inclusive/ smart' city planning. Hence, any Indian city planned systematically, ought to be æsmart'. In Mumbai, the Smart City concept can be safely considered as a æsystematically carried out urban planning process itself, led by local context, various policies and Acts'.
The Smart City mission has made categories titled as æsmart solutions', which overlap with the urban sectors and its sub-categories with a focus on (i) waste management, (ii) water management (physical infrastructure), (iii) urban mobility (transport), (iv) e-governance and citizen services (governance), (v) energy management (environment) and (vi) skill development (social infrastructure). Knowing the history of shoddy implementation of previous development plans in Mumbai, the key focus of RDDP was to make an implementable plan. Among the Smart City mission illustrative list, RDDP has paid special attention to ôwaste management sector, parking authority, citizen participation and skill development centresö. These are just a few RDDP sectors which overlap with the Smart City mission list other than many others which are not mentioned here but are included in the spatial plan, Development Plan report and Development Control Regulations (DCR).
RDDP has identified the sector of Solid Waste Management (SWM) as the topmost priority, owing to the increasing amount of waste generated and overfilled dumping grounds. Decentralised waste management systems have been proposed in almost all wards through new SWM facility reservations. Further, care has been taken to reserve these new reservations on municipal-owned plots to avoid any delay pertaining to land acquisition. The urgency to address this planning aspect also adhered to the High Court orders to maximise the SWM decentralisation system. The SWM facility implementation too has been take up on topmost priority and is being included in the upcoming budget of the MCGM for FY2017-2018. That it fits into the Smart City mission is no matter of coincidence but is a careful consideration as a priority sector identified through the city context and the Existing Situation Analysis, as a part of the urban planning process.
The Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) recently prepared by the MCGM Roads Department has been taken as the base in RDDP which concentrates on public transport, non-motorised transport, etc. A proposal to form a Parking Authority has been made. The Authority would be a centralised monitoring system for providing system based information to the citizens about parking availability, rate control to reduce misuse of parking in a few areas and reduce the on-street parking nuisance. Further work on the institutional framework, its roles and responsibilities, policies, etc., is being carried out.
The most important aspect addressed in the RDDP was that of making the process transparent, engaging citizens, NGOs dealing with aspects of gender, homeless people, education, environment, open spaces, etc., right from the beginning of the RDDP preparation process. Workable aspects of the Earlier Draft Development Plan (EDDP) were carried forward, and the demands from the people were added. RDDP was open for hearing grievances, suggestions and ideas from all sections of society. Some of the NGO groups and campaign members were involved throughout the process and their expert inputs were taken at various stages to ensure their consent through the process. This helped the groups as they were informed, involved and empowered. The government gained as there was a value addition in the RDDP through their expertise.
Following efforts were taken for making the plan transparent and participatory:
1.Consultations were held at the onset to know what was missed in the EDDP; some of them were even included in the vision and goals.
2.Consultations were held to work out the standards, statistics, areas, and targets.
3.Publishing of designations, roads' survey and reservation policy were posted on the MCGM website to seek observations from citizens and republished after corrections were made.
4.Consultations were held to include reservations along with details.
5.There were further consultations regarding the implementation.
6.Consultations were also held to ensure quality in design, implementation and maintenance.
The following groups were involved very closely to develop the RDDP:
Differently-Abled Groups: Model by-laws, CPWD guidelines, universal guidelines of developed countries were studied and were contextualised to form the DCR chapter on the differently abled. Meetings with the Blind Graduates' Forum of India, Xavier's Institute for Visually Impaired, Disability Research and Design Foundation, were conducted to take their inputs.
Hamara Shehar Vikas Abhiyan (HSVA): This was a campaign started during the DP making process, which involved many urban sectoral NGOs. Following groups worked closely with RDDP:
- Gender groups: Women working in this field suggested inclusion of multipurpose housing for working women, care centres, Adhaar Kendra with Skill Development with an aim to increase the workforce participation (WFP) of women in Mumbai city from 16 per cent to 25 per cent. They worked very closely with the RDDP team to ensure its introduction in each ward.
- Koliwadas and gaothans: Mapping of adivasipada and koliwada locations as submitted to MCGM by the revenue department was carried out as a starting demand from the group. Further demand of demarcating the boundaries has been made by the group, which when received from the revenue department will be included in the Development Plan.
- Homeless shelters: Mapping assistance provided by the homeless shelter group was taken into consideration. Further, site visits for implementation and reconfirmation of sites was taken up by the group along with the concerned department. Certain sites are proposed to be developed immediately.
- Vending zones: Informal sector groups demanded increase in the vending zone areas which would define a space for them, thereby developing their economy. New areas in markets have been marked for them on the plan as vending zones.
- Affordable Housing: Affordable housing reservations on land kept in abeyance has been made and worked through the new accommodation reservation policy. The demand for inclusion of the slum housing as affordable housing is currently being heard by the planning committee which was formed to hear the citizens/groups who have filed their suggestions of objections.
Developers, Architects and Landholders: Their demands were heard in meetings held by the DCR team. Many discussions took place in order to strike a balance between development, environment and social equity aspects.
The Smart City planning concept as envisaged by the Central Ministry percolated down to the state through its political agenda was developed by the local level planning body through RDDP. Many planning concepts have merged and overlapped while travelling through various levels vertically and horizontally. From making it largely an ôin-house planö to maintaining transparency, to involving citizens, to concentrating on the 3 E's of æEquity, Environment and Economy' aspects, RDDP has made many first moves. This ever-evolving and dynamic urban planning process is yet to be sanctioned by the state, which will finally be the deciding factor for the success of the Smart Revised Draft Development Plan 2034 of MCGM.
About The Author
Prachi Merchant is trained in the fields of architecture, urban & regional planning, GIS, arts and aesthetics. Her work experience ranges from design, urban & rural planning research, heritage conservation, development and planning, over the past two decades. She currently leads a team of urban planners for the revision of the Draft Development Plan for Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai - 2034 through the All India Institute of Local Self Government (AIILSG). Merchant has previously worked as a consultant to AIILSG with the Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU) on urban research areas within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.