‘Trained town planner needed for Mumbai’

DharaviEven as the city’s heritage committee pushes for saltpan lands and mangroves to be listed as heritage areas, the opposition from land developers has rung out strongly.

“Mumbai is not a place to make salt, of all things,” said urban planner Shirish Patel, one of the experts monitoring the Dharavi redevelopment project.

Speaking at a seminar on Mumbai architecture at the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute on Sunday, Patel said the vast tracts of land taken up by the saltpans and mangroves are the only viable solution to Mumbai’s space crunch.

In the recent past, environmentalists have expressed concern over proposals to build housing complexes on the saltpan lands. On Thursday, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee proposed to put saltpans and mangroves on its heritage list.

“Whatever the environmentalists say, I find it hard to believe the government cares about salt or mangroves. It has a conscious policy of keeping land in short supply,” said Patel.

The final speaker at the two-day seminar, he added that the problem of slums, too, arose largely because the government provides migrants with jobs, but not corresponding housing facilities.

“If you increase land supply, its price will fall, and that doesn’t serve the interests of the government or the builders,” said Rajiv Mishra, principal of JJ College of Architecture.

Ruing the fact that many of Mumbai’s architects are largely builders in league with a corrupt government, Mishra stressed the need for the civic body to create the role of a trained town planner.

“There are nine schools of planning in India, and not one of them is in Mumbai. Planning here is only about favouring the elites, not taking into account the aspirations of the common people,” he added.

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