Mumbai Mill Land Re-Development

Mumbai is having 437.71 sq.kms of land . Total land available or occupied is 68.71 sq.kms in the city, 210.34 sq.kms, in suburbs and 158066 sq.kms for extended suburbs. With density of population just above 45000 per sq.kms, the mega city has vast area of land to reduce the density. At present more than 12 crore sq.ft of projects going in full swing in Mumbai and its suburbs.
Plenty of land will be available if urban land ceiling act is repealed. Mill lands will cater space and will be required to construct yet another 12 million sq.ft. Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) is becoming laughing stock abroad. When Dubai can have palm island in the sea why can’t Mumbai they say.
There are 52 cotton mills in Mumbai, of these 26 were deemed sick and were taken over by the government of India. Out of these, 25 were managed by National Textile Corporation (NTC) and by Maharashtra State Textile Corporation (MSTC). Remaining 32 mills continue to be in the private sector. Even after taken over, these mills continue to be sick.
Textile mills hold 400 to 500 acres of land just in the heart of Greater Mumbai NTC alone having 275 acres in its possession.
To understand its impact on the regional economy and geographical importance, let us first look into the history of these mills. In 1700 century, cotton trade with China from had begun. Economically the traders of Bombay into cotton with the proceeds from illegal trade with Malwa district in the north. In 1853, the first rail link was established to Thane and in 1863 the railway link was extended through the Bhor ghats to the deccan. It was then possible to channelise raw cotton from its major growing areas (Nagpur) to the foreign markets through Mumbai.
The Municipality undertook the task of filing in the town sweepings the lands between Mahalaxmi & clerk road that had originally been covered by swampy flats. A new thoroughfare was laid across the area where drainage seemed difficult; the land was raised to the height of the new roads. The project possible the construction of more mills and worker chawls on land lying between Tardeo and Lower Parel. These lead to steep rise within the area.
Regulation 58 of new DCR which into force in March 1991, provides for development of sick and / or closed cotton textile mills on condition that one third of land is given to BMC for public amenities and 27-37% (depending on the area of mill) is given to MHADA and PSU’s for housing. The remaining lands could be developed by the owner for residential and commercial uses as may be permissible under the DC regulation in the force.
The DC regulation of march 1991 intended to regulate the development of cotton textile mills so as to generate open spaces and public houses for the city, in a manner, which could create coherent urban form. Such redevelopment that has occurred has been in a piece meal and haphazard manner on a totally commercial basis, without any portion of land becoming available either for low income housing or for public amenities. On 29th February 1996, Maharashtra government had instituted a study group under the chairmanship of architect Charles Correa to have an integrated development plan for the development of textile mills. In June 2000 state government cleared the proposals to sales of surplus mill land of NTC as per DCR.
Now land is absolutely in the real estate market. The centralised site of these mills will impact major sale of western suburbs. Proximity to South Mumbai and well connected to both the suburban lines, these mills land have approximately 200 acres to be constructed and sold. Huge land will be now available for private developers for big housing complexes. Many of such projects already started or on the verge of it.
The ruling by the Mumbai High Court on the sale and redevelopment of mill lands has renewed attention on the future of the city. The court’s order nullified the Rs 2,020 crore sale earlier this year of five National Textile Corporation (NTC) mills for having violated Supreme court guidelines and also rejected the government’s 2001 interpretation of Development Control Regulation (DCR) 58 that only 10 percent of “open” mill land space need to be turned over for development of green spaces. The court’s decision on DCR 58 will, in effect, release nearly 200 acres for developing green spaces and low-cost public housing for the city. While environmental groups, heritage committees and diverse citizens’ groups have welcomed the ruling, other disparate groups that include primarily the affected builders and developers are expected to move the Supreme Court. The ruling has pitted two sides, with conflicting visions for the city’s future development, against each other.
In the last decade, even as rapid construction of high-rises has wrought drastic changes in the city’s skyline and in the elusively defined “quality of life”, it is the court that have to direct the debate on Mumbai’s development. In recent weeks, the high court has ruled on the issues that include, among others, directions to map via satellite the mangroves skirting the city’s coastline; directives to municipal corporation to improve the city’s roads and ensure the removals of encroachments along the Mithi river. The NTC mills and other privately owned mills occupy nearly 600 acres of prime state land in central Mumbai (traditionally called Girangaon). Most of the land is already in varying phases of redevelopment, assisted with investments made by several financial institutions and buyers. Dues, delayed earlier, had also begun to accrue to displaced workers. With the sale once more under a cloud, the status of these activities now appears uncertain. Of more crucial importance, however, is the court’s ruling upholding the earlier interpretation of DCR 58 that will have a far-reaching impact on the city’s land space use.
For its part, the governed has defended the amendment of DCR 58 that not only unfroze mill land for development, but also ensure funds to pay workers’ dues. However, as the court’s ruling makes apparent, the manner in which clearances for development were obtained, with the apparent connivance of several city authorities, raises concern. For instance, in most cases the necessary environment and fire protection clearances were obtained, so too the heritage clearances. In some other cases, the status of certain mill lands, leased for varying years from the Brihan Mumbai Corporation and the collectorate, was never clarified. A similar disregard for legally established procedures characteristics the controversial Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) applicable to slum development schemes the arbitrary increase in Floor-Space Index (FSI) norms in the rebuilding of dilapidated buildings.
But the court will also examine if current redevelopment follows a Central Environment Ministry of Environment (MoE) law issued last July to ensure that mega-construction projects first get the ministry’s green signal. The clearances is, on paper, a fairly rigorous process: The development submitting an Environment Impact Assessment report to the state Pollution Control Board, followed by the board holding a public hearing on the project, before MoE can decide if it merits clearance.
But in their affidavits submitted late last month to the Bombay High Court, most mills are ingenuously arguing that they need not seek environmental clearance.
For example, several mills including Morarjee and Swan Mills claim that the Rs. 50 crore investment criteria, mandating central clearance for a project, does not cover the cost of land.
The land value of each mill itself runs into a few hundred crore as shown in the past months by the mammoth bids going as high as Rs. 702 crore for five National Textile Corporation mills.
The Rs 50 crore criteria includes the land’s on which the proposed project will come up. No textile mill has yet submitted an EIA report. The affidavit of India Bulls—the brokerage picked up NTC’s Jupiter mills in March for Rs 276 crore- claims that rule only applies to “ new construction projects” on virgin land.’ Since theirs is ‘redevelopment project’. Environmental clearance isn’t needed.
Construction giant Raheja Constructions, which is developing the Hindustan Spinning and Weaving Mill in fact challenges the very notification as “unreasonable, discriminatory and irrational” arguing that it “infringes upon local development regulations.”
Ironically, the local regulations that govern mill land redevelopment are being challenged in court being amended by the Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in 2001 to favour private developers while neglecting open spaces and public housing, and for not putting in place a masterplan for 600 acres of land freed up by the closing of the mills.
So many projects coming up in the concentrated area will cause overcrowding and strain the infrastructure. Studies from Shanghai are already indicating a sinking of the land and a rise in sea level due to over-construction.
The rule for construction projects
The Ministry of Environment on July 7, 2004, mandated environmental clearance for every construction project “that hadn’t yet come upto plinth level”, and with any of the following criteria:
for 1,000 or more persons
discharging sewage of 50,000 liters per day with an investment of Rs 50 crores or more.

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