Mumbai: If the draft of the new Mumbai Development Plan – 2034 is anything to go by, then the city’s famous Jehangir Art Gallery is a veterinary hospital and the iconic St Thomas Church is an orphanage.
This is just one of the many reasons for which Mumbai’s urban planning blueprint for the next 20 years has come under severe scrutiny.
City historians point out that as many as 1000 iconic structures of Mumbai have been left out of the ‘heritage buildings list,’ in the draft plan that was released on February 16.
For instance, The Asiatic Society of Mumbai – one of India’s oldest colonial buildings doesn’t find a spot in the draft. Another iconic structure – The Watson’s Hotel – which had hosted author Mark Twain has not been listed.
“Once these heritage structures are not shown on the development plan they have no legal protection. So you will have high rises and vertical developments replace these structures,” says Vikas Dilawari of Mumbai’s Heritage Conservation Committee.
On March 30 bollywood actors Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Farhan Akhtar and others jointly raised concerns over the proposal of using the city’s green lungs for development.
Another key point of contention is the blanket tag of ‘Slums’ that has been given to Gaothans – areas where city’s originals habitants still reside.
“I’m not an encroacher, the land belongs to me. This means my house is open to slum rehabilitation. Tomorrow they will demolish my house and I will be given a much smaller accommodation under government rules”, said Nicholas Almeida, Trustee of the Watchdog foundation that has surveyed missing landmarks in South Mumbai.
In wake of the strong criticism, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has now constituted a three member committee to examine flaws in the contentious draft plan. The committee, headed by the Chief Secretary, has been asked to submit a preliminary report before the end of the legislative session on April 10.
Mr Fadnavis, however told the house, “Whatever be the report – the implementation of the development plan is the prerogative of the municipal corporation.”