Mumbai: The Maha Vikas Aghadi government has formed a Chief Secretary headed high power committee to prepare a report on use of 355 acres of salt pan land situated between Mulund and Vikhroli in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai for the construction of affordable homes.

The government has asked the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority to prepare a detailed plan.  

The land is jointly owned by the Centre and the state government and the construction of affordable homes will be launched through proper coordination between these two governments. Minister of Revenue Balasaheb Thorat said,'' These lands are owned jointly by the state and the Centre government and the decision to unlock will be taken together.

IIT, Bombay will carry out the geological survey of these 40 salt pan lands spread over 355 acre. The final decision on opening up these lands will be taken after the government receives a report from the Chief Secretary led committee.''

This is yet another attempt as the successive governments including the previous BJP government had formed the committee headed by additional chief secretary but there was no outcome.

In 2017, the state government had decided to use the salt pan lands across Mumbai and its metropolitan region for housing projects, slum rehabilitation and infrastructure development. However, there was no visible action from the government so far.

Anarock Property Consultants Chairman Anuj Puri observed that the unlocking of salt pan lands for affordable housing will definitely ease the pressure of real estate development particularly in the areas in south Mumbai. It will help builders to shift their focus on suburban areas like Mulund, Vikhroli. '

'However, considering that these areas are ecologically fragile, developers will need to put major emphasis on the safety of the to-be-built structures.

If the government succeeds in opening these areas for development, developers will need to take  consolidation  measures and use new-age construction techniques that will make the building strong and safe for its residents,'' advised Puri.

Former housing minister Prakash Mehta reminded that  BJP led government had received an offer from a leading developer to construct nearly 1 lakh affordable homes on 550 hectare of salt pan lands.

''However, it didn't progress. Apart from salt pan lands, there are other land parcels which are already identified  on which a total of 8 lakh affordable homes can be constructed in Mumbai,'' opined Mehta.

Puri said there are global precedents for doing it right. Changi Airport in Singapore was built on salt pan land and stands tall today only because the construction building was given sufficient time to stabilize.

On the other hand, the National Real Estate Development Council President Niranjan Hiranandani said Mumbai is still devoid of affordable housing.

''I am happy to learn that the government is going to build huge quantity of affordable houses and this is a big step for housing in Mumbai,'' said Hiranandani.

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