Editorial: No Man’s Land

Share it

By Dr. Sanjay Murari Chaturvedi

In 1981, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi proposed that no permanent structure should come up within 500 meters of the high-tide line along the coast. The discussions that followed culminated in MoEF issuing the CRZ notification on February 19, 1981. We need land for housing millions of homeless in our country. No-Development (ND) and Reservation on land for public utility services along with land under Mangrove and of course, land under urban forest have become No Man’s Land.

Maharashtra Government, specifically, is sitting on almost 8000 ha of urban land which it acquired under Urban Land Ceiling Act.

We have self imposed CRZ rules, not Act, to regulate the coastal lines. Salt pan Land and Mangroves along the Mumbai’s coast are lying vacant and its not just ND but No Men’s Land.

Land reforms have been half-heartedly attempted at various times and this has proved to be a case of the remedy being worse than the disease. Commenting on the process of land reforms, Prof. M.L. Dantwala observes; “By and large land reforms in India enacted so far and those contemplated in the near future, are in the right direction; and yet due to lack of implementation the actual results are far from satisfactory”.

Evaluating the Indian land reforms, a recent comment from G.S. Balla is apt. He observes: “The Indian Government was committed to land reforms and consequently laws were passed by all the State Governments during the Fifties with the avowed aim of abolishing landlordism, distributing land through imposition of ceilings, protection of tenants and consolidation of land-holdings. One of the significant achievements of these acts was the abolition of absentee landlordism in several parts of India. However, land reforms were half-hearted with regard to the imposition of ceilings and security of tenure. Consequently, the skewness in land distribution was not reduced in any significant manner. Further, a very large number of tenants were actually evicted in the name of self-cultivation. In spite of it, land reforms brought about a significant change in land relations in so far as self-cultivation, rather than absentee landlordism, became a predominant mode of production.

The Government of India is aware that agricultural development in India could be achieved only with the reform of India’s rural institutional structure. It was said that the extent of the utilisation of agricultural resources would be determined by the institutional framework under which the various inputs were put to use. M. Dandekar observed: “Among the actions intended to release the force which may initiate or accelerate the process of economic growth, agrarian reform usually receives high priority”. The First Five-Year Plan stated:”This (land reform) is a fundamental issue of national importance. The former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, emphasised: “Land Reforms is the most crucial test which our political system must pass in order to survive.” Land reforms therefore became one of the vital aspects of the agricultural development policy especially after the concept of the Five-Year Plan came to stay.

The Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project is the first effort to study the 7,500-km coastline and impact of shoreline change and sea level rise in the country. The Project will cover six crore people who live in coastal areas. Rs 1156 crore World-Bank assisted Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Project will be implemented over the next five years by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The World Bank’s contribution as soft loan/IDA credit is around Rs 897 crore (78%). This ICZM project assumes special significance in the context of climate change since one of the definitive findings of the IPCC relates to the increase in mean sea levels as a result of global warming. It will focus on four factors- shoreline changes, tides, waves and sea level rise.

The total number of direct beneficiaries of the project is close to 15 lakhs, while the number of indirect but identifiable beneficiaries will be close to 6 crore.

Two decades after setting up norms to protect the country’s 7,500 km coastline, the Government has finally approved drawing India’s first ‘’hazard line’’ for the entire coast. A hazard line broadly is the maximum distance a wave – both regular and tidal – can travel. The line would be drawn keeping factors like shoreline change, the distance traveled by tides and regular waves as well as sea level rise in mind. Once the line is drawn, in extreme cases people who are found living on the wrong side of the hazard line will be sensitised to the problem and the risk involved. Some vulnerable sections living close to the hazard line may be relocated after the completion of the project. The Centre in the past had proposed commercial and development activities close to the shore without even first drawing the hazard line, being demanded by green activists for a long time.

Of special focus in the project will be the identification and demarcation of coastal fragile areas like mangroves, brackish water, wetlands, coral reefs, etc., based on which a new category of Critically Vulnerable Coastal Areas (CVCAs) would be designated and appropriate management plans implemented for their preservation and regeneration. These would include areas around Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Gulf of Khambat and Gulf of Kutchchh in Gujarat, Malvan, Vasasi-Manori, Achra-Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, Karwar and Coondapur in Karnataka, Vembanad in Kerala, Bhaitarkanika and Chilika in Orissa, Coringa, East Godavari and Krishna in Andhra Pradesh, Sunderban in West Bengal, Pichawaram and Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu etc.

One of the major negative features of agrarian transition in India is the continued concentration of land in the hands of the upper strata of the rural society. This has not undergone any change in the past five decades, despite the reforms. In fact, leasing by affluent farmers is commonplace.

It is time we thought seriously of land reforms when especially a “humble farmer” is on top. If in the new century we still talk of reforms without effective implementation we will surely miss the bus.

Mumbai Mess:

Mumbai has 437.71sq.kms. of land. Total land available or occupied is 68.71 sq. kms. in the city, 210.34 sq. kms. in the suburbs and 158.66 sq.mrs. for extended suburbs.

With a density of population just above 45000 per sq.kms, the mega city has a vast area of land to reduce the density. At present more than 12 crore sq.ft. of projects are in full swing in Mumbai and its suburbs.

Plenty of land is available after the 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 a laughing stock abroad. When Dubai can have Plam Island in the sea why can’t Mumbai, they say.

MHADA, after years of urging and presentation, got permission to construct individual dwelling units to its allottees of plots at Gorai. Salt pan land, having no use whatsoever, will give immense space to congested slums. We have invited people to occupy land belonging to authorities, No Development Zones and to the collectors. Nobody, Simply nobody is interested in vacating the land for its natural and planned use.

Not that we do not know about today’s situation. Way back in 1965, a committee, under the Chairmanship of Prof. N.V. Gadgil was formed. The committee initially identified the Greater Bombay Metropolitan region in 1965, was of the view that Bombay’s population was already of an ‘oppressive size’.

Ever since the passing of the Bombay Improvement Trust Act in 1925 (the Act was superseded by the Bombay Housing Board Act of 1948 and the activities of the Trust were absorbed in the BMC), it has been an axiom of public policy that public sponsorship of land development projects have an important role to play. The approach was legally buttressed by a Supreme Court verdict in the fifties, holding that compulsory land acquisition for the implementation of town planning projects was for a public purpose within the meaning of the Central Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (L.A Act). In Greater Bombay, over 600 hectares of land, mostly in the suburbs, were placed under compulsory acquisition in the sixties for the execution of schemes by the then Housing Board and its successor body.

The 1975 estimates of potentially available vacant land under the ULC Act indicated 8000 hectares in Greater Bombay, rising to as much as 20,000 hectares if marshy land in the NO Development Zone was included. The National Urbanisation Commission has concluded in its interim report in 1986 that, because of the manner in which it has been drafted and implemented, the ULCAR Act has not achieved any of the objectives for which it was enacted. According to an article in the Times of India dated 27th April 1984, a mere 27 landowners, or 3% of the total, on fully 70% of all exploitable vacant land in Greater Bombay, and about 20 builder monopolies over two-thirds of all that actually taken over under the ULC Act and used for housing and other public purposes is negligible. All 45457 statements were scrutinized from all over the state, and the vacant land after scrutiny was 34213 hectares, However, the land acquired and vested with the state government is only 4494 hectares, of which again 877 hectares have been actually taken in possession.

The Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act of 1966, employs the Term Development Plan and indicates a variety of things, but is a mere land-use plan. It also contains the Development Control Rules (DC Rules). Which regulate the Character of buildings and density of population allowed in a specified area.

The City’s godfathers who approved the Draft plan perhaps sincerely believed that the Plan would improve the quality of life but some of the prescriptions of the Plan have had the opposite. The prescribed density ceiling for ordinary housing was 200 tenements per net hectare. The FSI concept was based on the land price level and the population potential as assessed by the planners in pursuit of the decongestion concept. The high prevailing FSI in the Island city was reduced in the late seventies to 1.33, while it was fixed at 1 for the suburbs, and 0.75 and 0.5 for certain areas in the M, N, P (North) and R wards. Now since the situation is changed the plan and provisions must the reviewed.

On a different plane, artificial assumptions about the future population size and the direction of growth have led to exclusion of vast lands for development, and to a jailer to plan adequately for the provisions of infrastructure for the realistic levels of population in different parts of the city.

There is much meaning in the claim that the city’s housing problem is not so much due to physical shortage of land, as unhelpful building regulations and an unresponsive urban government, that constrained the supply of available land in the market and precluded the construction of affordable housing. The Kerkar Committee, appointed by the state government in 1981, pointed out that the state government owns about 8088 acres of open land (about 5886 acres in the western tip of Borivli, 156 acres in the western suburb of Andheri, and 2046 acres in the eastern Kurla), of which 6400 acres are marshy land, and 1272 acres are hilly, and most of the land has been placed in the no-development zone owing to the difficulty of development. About 3000 acres of land belonging to the government and public bodies are reported to be under encroachment, and about 5000 acres of land are in the ownership of private individuals, but can technically be acquired. About 7000 acres of land are lying vacant, mainly in the suburbs, having been placed in the industrial zone, and some of this can be developed for housing the industrial workers. The initial estimate of vacant land under the Urban Ceiling Act was around 20,000 acres, though it must be a lesser area now after all the exemptions and scrutiny of returns. These lands are now become No Man’s Land since no political will nor regulations allow them to develop. Salt Pan Land should be used for habitation if not for public utility purposes. After all, these can be relocated for want of expansion of the city.

In addition to this, the Central government agencies are in possession of vast areas of land in both the Island city and suburbs. These include: 1) the Bombay Port Trust, with some 2000 acres or a third of the Central Bombay area; 2) the Defence Department with over 1000 acres of prime land in South Bombay, and smaller areas in the suburbs, all held apparently for security reasons; 3) the Western and the Central Railways, holding land in the suburbs, usually near the railway tracks; 4) the Internal Airport Authority holding a lot of land in its jurisdiction in Western suburbs; and 5) the Salt Department with over 200 hectares of land under salt pans, much of which can be converted to residential purpose. Their development would, of course, call for the recasting of the development plan and for planning the extension of infrastructure of water supply, sewerage, electricity, roads, and social facilities to additional vacant lands in the suburbs.

Affordable housing can be built and occupied only if such huge scale of land is unlocked from its status of “NO MAN’S LAND”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Verified by MonsterInsights