But some of the problems highlighted by Adarsh might not go away. Land is in severe shortage in Mumbai. It’s a city crammed to the brim with hutments that literally encroach into the sea. Even a small hut in a slum in Central Mumbai sells for 10 lakh rupees. This scarcity triggers the greed in builders.
From the outset, environmental issues have been of least concern for the city’s planners. Many areas in Mumbai have been reclaimed from the sea, including famous stretches like Nariman Point, Backbay and Bandra. In fact, it was after a citizen petition in the 1970’s that the further reclamation was halted at Nariman Point. However, to date, there are many cases of illegal land filling to build hutments or even extend gardens or compound walls of buildings on the shore. All of these constructions take place well beyond the CRZ (Coastal Restriction Zone) restriction line.
Sea facing homes are so lucrative to the authorities and builders concerned that Mumbai has been given special status in the new CRZ notification, giving the green light to opening up more area closer to the sea for construction. This has been done ostensibly to help redevelopment of old fishermen homes that are in a dilapidated state. But the fishermen themselves say that there is no proper definition of who will be considered a native fisherman. These and other loopholes will surely be exploited by builders and the redevelopment authorities who have so far had a dubious track record.
Adarsh is just one case that came to light and was aggressively pursued by the media because of the high profile people involved. But the rot has set in so deep that the action against Adarsh et al, might not make much of a difference.
Most of the debate with respect to housing, development and environment is also a debate of extremes. Whereas there are many dubious environment ‘experts’ who are notorious as extortionists, there are also the ones who gobble up land by marketing it as essential for development. There is a lack of any rational planning and even if it is done, the implementation suffers. What is probably needed is a complete overhaul of the rules and regulations, but this seems to be a utopian dream at present.