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It's too little and too late: Citizens, environmentalists

The Vasai-Virar development plan has been approved by the state
government-17 years after it was first drafted-amidst criticism from
environmental groups and concerned citizens that it is "too little, too

    Vivek Pandit of the Shramjeevi Sanghatana said builders have been
allowed to go ahead with unregulated growth for almost two decades. "The
government has looked the other way while spaces reserved in the plan for
holding-ponds, gardens and schools were converted for commercial use,'' he

    Harit Vasai leader Marcus Dabre stated that the development control
rules have been flouted in the area for years. Not much attention has been
given to good roads and proper civic infrastructure, as envisaged in the
plan. "Sections of the plan have been modified to help certain politicians,''
he alleged.

    Manvel Toscano of the Nirbhay Jana Manch said it seemed to be a plan to
regularise violations of building and planning norms, he said. "We will
challenge it in court if necessary,'' he added.

    The state first appointed the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development
Authority as the planning authority in 1988 but later replaced it with the
City and Industrial Development Corporation. A draft plan was ready in 1995
and suggestions were invited. After several twists and turns the plan has
now been passed and will come into force on March 15.

    Criticising the government for the way it went about developing the
plan, Chandrashekhar Prabhu, architect and city planning activist, said that
the a bottomsup approach, instead of top-down one, should have been adopted
while drafting it. "The citizens of Vasai should have been consulted before
the plan was drawn up. What has happened is that architects and planners
have drawn up the plan and are now seeking suggestions from the public.''
Prabhu said excessive development of the Vasai-Virar area would pose an
environmental problem to Mumbai. "Vasai has an area of 418 sqkm, it is
almost the size of Mumbai, which has 424 sqkm. Almost 50 per cent of the
land in Vasai is low lying or marshy. If too much of filling-up and
construction takes place, it may cause the sea to push harder at Mumbai's
shoreline,'' he said.

    Harit Vasai members, who have been actively campaigning for a balanced
environment, pointed out that in 1988, when the plans were first drawn up,
the population was only 6 lakh. But the current population was around 14
lakh, and it was likely to shoot up further, they said. Hence, there was a
dire need for adequate reservations for social, educational and civic needs
in the area, they added.