Sunday, November 12, 2006

A bright Sunday morning

Two articles in the front pages of both the Times of India and the Hindustan Times make you think about the future of Mumbai. They also give you an insight into what the politicians and builders are thinking about Mumbai. Makes me wonder whether any other class of people matter for this city.

First up, the HT article (For today, this link should work, but for later go to the HT epaper site and search archives for 12th Nov), whose headlines go “8,000 sq ft flat in Worli? Skyz the limit”. Move over Bellissimo, look who just toppled you. That’s right. Skyz, a project by Oberoi Constructions, will have 65 floors, but only 44 apartments. Each will measure 8,000sqft, will be a duplex apartment spread across two floors.

"We wanted a swimming pool for each apartment but the civic body turned it down as there is a water shortage in the city", explained Oberoi.

Apartments will start 15 floors above the ground everyone gets a view of the sea. Of course the first question in your mind - how much ? Rs20cr per apartment. And like Bellissimo, you have to be invited to buy the apartment. And this time I hear they mean it, not like Bellissimo where your friendly neighborhood broker or home-financer could get you an invite). So I’d suggest you forget that drive down to the Glaxo compound in Worli (where the towers are being built), and don’t even think of asking anyone there to show you a sample flat.

My point is anyone paying Rs20cr for this flat, or for that matter any builder investing money in this project, obviously assumes that real-estate prices in Bombay, or at least those in and around Worli (which is said to soon become the new Cuffe Parade), will only keep going up. That’s a fair assumption to make ?

Next up is the Times of India, which in this article talks about the development plan (DP) for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). This is the single most crucial document for Mumbai. It will cover planning for everything from land to transport to communications, water supply, etc. Basically a blue-print for the future development of this city. A committee of 45 members will decide on this plan. So, you’d expect some urban development experts, urban planners, architects, professionals, etc. Sure there are. But only 4, as against no less than 30 politicians. I’m guessing the rest are bureaucrats.

Eminent architect and urban planner Charles Correa says he fears the entire process of drafting the regional plan may be abused. “It all depends on the relationship between these politicians and the planners on the panel,” he adds.
I remember asking Chandrashekhar Prabhu about whether he believed in the idea of a CEO for Mumbai, or at the bare minimum having one agency in charge (instead of the BMCs, MMRDAs, MSRDCs, etc, etc). His answer surprised me because he said he didn't give a damn who ran the city as long as they did a good job and had a professional, approach with the involvment of urban planning experts. No such luck this time. The DP is made for a 10-15 year period and this one will cover the period 2011-2021).

Yet again politicians get to decide the future of the city, which according to builders is set to be very, very rosy. I don’t know where’s the disconnect here with the present day. I mean each and every day that goes by, the words “planning” and “development” seem meaningless for this city that is just OD-ing on traffic jams, dug-up roads and crowded trains. Envy the politicians and builders – they seem to be one optimistic lot about the future of Mumbai. Pardon my skepticism then as I return to my Sunday morning coffee and reality checks.