Mumbai can grow only vertically, not horizontally. Given this simple truth, the Maharashtra government cannot be faulted for asking the ministry of environment and forests to ease the restrictions on construction in the metropolis. Many building plans in the city have been delayed, some for years, because of their non-clearance. It is ironic that a ministry, which is responsible for protecting forests, is also entrusted with clearing building plans in a city bursting at its seams. Restrictions like the one the ministry has imposed only encourage corruption and strengthen the land and building mafia.
Maharashtra’s capital does not have any land for construction. The development of Mumbai’s suburbs, too, has reached saturation points. The Mumbaites who live in sub-cities that developed on the city’s periphery but work in Mumbai face innumerable problems of logistics. High-rise buildings, whether for office or for accommodation, become inevitable. This poses a challenge to urban planners. They have to ensure that while allowing a new multi-storied building to come up, it does not cause traffic jams in the area, there is enough space for parking and water and electricity are available round-the-clock on all the floors in the building. It is by addressing these issues that cities like Hong Kong, New York and Sydney have come up and become models of urban planning.
Unfortunately, urban planning is still in a nascent state in India, borne out by the fact that not a single city has a proper waste management system. For instance, Bangalore, which was once known for its salubrious climate where people preferred to settle down after retirement, has become a concrete jungle where traffic crawls and vehicular pollution is beyond tolerable levels. Delhi has expanded to become the New Capital Territory. Facilities like road, electricity, water and sewage are woefully short of the needs in all these cities. For a rapidly urbanising nation, this mismatch is a matter of serious concern.