CRZ needs practical approach
By Architect Hafeez Contractor
Posted on 10 July 2002
CRZ is a regulation to control and protect our coastal areas with a specific view to protect the ecologically sensitive coastal stretches which run into approximately 7500 Km. The Regulation is broken up into four parts – CRZ I, II, III, & IV.
CRZ I applies to ecologically sensitive coastal stretches.
CRZ II applies to the coastal stretches within municipal limits and urban areas which are substantially developed up to seashore with necessary infrastructure like roads, water supply, drainage.
CRZ III applies to the coastal stretches in rural areas and all other coastal stretches not covered in CRZ I and CRZ II, and
CRZ IV applies to the coast of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
CRZ I & II are applicable to the city of Mumbai.
Do we need CRZ ?
The answer to this an emphatic ‘YES’. I would say that this law would go a long way in protecting the natural beauty of our coastal areas. To protect this sensitive environment is our duty. This wealth if once destroyed will be irreplaceable – A gift that we can leave for our future has got to be modified to make it more justifiable. We are here today to discuss the impact of the CRZ law on the urban areas. (Specifically what is tabulated in the law as CRZ II) debating its suitability and logic to a city like Mumbai, where most of the urban areas are highly developed. Infact the city was established and grew like many more coastal cities of the World. Because of the very existence of the sea. After 100’’s of years of its existence how can we today ask the people to stop their activity and to get away from the sea by 500 M.A. law which got enacted for a totally different purpose and for a different location has crept into the urban landscape due to lack of response from our city is also a living entity – which has to grow – improve – once it stagnates, it dies – and once it dies – god knows ! – Mumbai is already heading for a slow death – and this is not because of its people – the people have shown a remarkably infinite capacity of tolerance and adaption – it is due to the impractical and politically motivated laws.
AS much as I feel that the CRZ law is required for non urban coastline, A CRZ of a different kind – taking into consideration the urban scenario and the urban environment is required. Keeping this s mind, the law has to be viewed from a different perspective- but with the same objective i.e. preserving and enhances the urban environment. While looking at this law in its urban contest, one has to keep in view the other pressing problems that a city faces – more particularly the city of Mumbai. Had it been that this law was enacted locally, like most of the other laws of the city which consider the suitability of its application to the city – it would have got modified a long time ago. But the involvement of the MOEF from the center, who I feel have not been able to totally comprehend the peculiarities and specific problems of our city and which are unique, and have no similarity to the 7500- km long coastal belt of India where this law has all the validity (Barring certain coastal towns and cities with a very specific and careful thought given to tourism). On such area in the city of Mumbai where the CRZ law has caused a major setback is the housing sector and housing is the most crucial issue in the city.
Mumbai has a limited land mass being an island. Since the introduction of the CRZ law, 30% of all developable land in the city and 35% in the suburbs falls within the purview of this law and in some way or the other development on this land is restricted. Mumbai has the lowest allowable FSI to the population density 1.33 in the city and 1.0 in the suburbs. Other cities in the world with much less population have 10 to 15 times more F.A.R. Land in Mumbai being scarce – couple with less FSI, and with any law that cuts into this kitty – creates scarcity which is turn helps in the escalation of the real estate in 1995 was the third most expensive in the world after Tokyo and New York.
IN addition to the 12 million population I Mumbai, hundred migrate almost daily to the city. We are unable to curb the influx of the hundreds of people who are coming to Mumbai daily in search of work and opportunities. The high prices due to non-availability of land, coupled with other laws like the land ceiling and rent control acts – take the cost of housing to astronomical highs – making it unaffordable and disproportionate to vast majority of the salaried population – thus forcing them to seek alternative accommodation – a lot of them on the low rung are led to the slums. The biggest problem facing Mumbai today is the slum dwellers and the road-side squatters who utilize the city’s infrastructure without any returns to the city had proposed a law by which the slum dwellers would be rehabilitated – the declared slum plots were granted additional higher F.A.R. whereby the slum dwellers would get free houses and the developer could use the balance area to construct housing for sale in the open market making the laws and hence the projects financially visible.
A similar policy and law exist for the old dilapidated buildings in Mumbai city – where in the reconstruction the developers were to rehouse the old tenants and utilise the balance area for free sale of housing. However, wherever the CRZ law is applicable buildings can be accommodated. Implementation of the schemes would have led to solving slum problem to a great extent of some parts of the extended suburbs of Mumbai. I would suggest that rather than giving a blanket directive for CRZ I, a careful and practical study should be taken up and only large chunks of these natural and ecologically sensitive areas which can be practically protected under CRZ I.
I see CRZII areas as a great opportunity for us to open up the coast – the sea affront to a lot more people – today only a marginal 4 to 5 % of the coastline is open to the general public. Let us take the opportunity if this law and open up our city coast to the people – a promenade with plazas and parks all along the coastal front. This seafront promenade should be enforced as a development directive on anybody wanting to develop a plot on the scenario are supposed to be protected but are getting encroached upon by slums and by illegal reclamation – should be reclaimed legally and attached to these strips of promenades as green forested areas for public use. To make it practical and also to hasten the process we could have given housing the tenants of old buildings at the same time would have provided a bulk of housing in the free market which due to abundant supply would have provided a bulk of housing in the free market which due to abundant supply would have reduced prices and provided safer and more hygienic accommodation.
I feel that the CRZ law II which applies to the urban areas of Mumbai city, rather than helping out the city with its various problems has in fact put the city planning behind by years in the housing and major road infrastructure developmental projects – Every second grade city of India has got a ring road to cope with the problem of increasing vehicular traffic – Mumbai has been talking about a coastal freeway for years – We should also look at providing a parallel ring rail system – Mass rapid transport – With limited halts – But, for lack of environmental clearances these shall continue to remain just a dream – resulting in increased commuting hours to the people and a burden on the already saturated stated owned public transport system.
I have opined only on a very restricted aspect of the CRZ II law for urban areas – which is a prime concern today for Mumbai city. As for CRZ I, which also applies to these developers the benefit of a higher FSI restricts ground coverage – resulting in larger open public spaces in front of the water. Imagine promenades going or miles – with palm trees lining the sides, cycle paths and jogging tracks, benches for people to sit – this is what an urban CRZ II should dictate – and not restricting development, not restricting FAR not restricting heights. Mumbai should be a green city – with man created architecture that is in harmony with nature and earth – to provide a friendly pace for human beings.
Getting encroached upon by slums and by illegal reclamation – should be reclaimed legally and attached to these strips of promenades as green forested areas – to make it practical and also to hasten the process we should give these developers the benefit of a higher FSI and restrict ground coverage – resulting in larger open spaces in front of the water. Imagine promenades going for miles – with palm trees lining the sides, cycle paths and jogging tracks, benches for people to sit – all along the water front – this would change the face of the city – this what an urban CRZ II should dictate – and not restricting development, not restricting FAR, not restricting heights.