While Mumbai’s Coastal Road project continues to take shape, entailing reclamation of 111 hectares of land, its impact on the realty sector in the island city is a matter of heated debate and speculation. Some real estate experts believe the project could give a much needed fillip to the sector by excluding some areas from the scope of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) restrictions.
However, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is executing the project, says it has no role to play in any alteration of CRZ boundaries, and it does not foresee any changes in it in the near future.
While there have been few takers for redevelopment of old buildings in South Mumbai over the past several years due to the lack of developmental incentives and CRZ restrictions, among other hurdles, some real estate sector experts believe the development of the Coastal Road could clear some of these hurdles as buildings near Mumbai's coastline may fall out of the existing 500 metres CRZ buffer zone.
Manju Yagnik Vice Chairperson Nahar Group & Senior Vice President NAREDCO Maharashtra said, “Infrastructure development in the island city has never matched the speed at which new projects and high rises have mushroomed in the last few decades. However, both the upcoming coastal road and the underground metro will make South Mumbai an epicentre of some of the most sought-after real estate in the world to be developed along its seafront. The coastal road project which is being built on reclaimed land would provide a boost to the redevelopment of old buildings now stuck for decades due to CRZ law.”
Yagnik added, “The reclaiming of land would relax the stringent clause of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) by pushing the buildings from the seafront beyond the 500 meters, freeing all such buildings of CRZ rule, leading to massive redevelopment activity. So also, the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz line being underground which gave way to numerous old buildings on its route has been provided with increased FSI. This would further boost the redevelopment in South Mumbai and projects offering more spacious and luxurious flats due to the higher FSI will be available along this corridor.”
According to her, with the added connectivity, the real estate market in South Mumbai and along the infrastructure corridor is poised to grow by leaps and bounds in the near future. “The underground metro would also reduce the overall cost of living for the residents and would provide them with better connectivity," she said.
Deepak Goradia, President, CREDAI-MCHI said, "The Coastal Road will surely decongest the existing load on the arterial roads of Mumbai and North-South. Travel from the airport to Nariman Point and Fountain areas will be easy. This will help in giving a fillip to reconstruction of dilapidated buildings owned by landlords, MHADA and MCGM in the A to D wards. We surely see a rejuvenation of demand in these areas due to the infrastructure projects."
Some allege that from the outset, the project was conceived with one eye on the demands of the influential builders’ lobby. Debi Goenka of the Conservation Action Trust, who is also one of the active petitioners in the apex court against the Coastal Road project said, "The biggest apprehension was whatever land that will be reclaimed will be given to real estate and commercial activity; but the BMC has given a solemn assurance on affidavit in the High Court that it will be garden and open spaces. The only construction work that will be allowed would be for the bus depot and other recreational activities. However, the project will be a disaster for the environment, and bonanza for the builders. This project was only designed keeping in mind the builders' lobby, as though the reclaimed land will be unused, the existing real estate development will get a major push."
Speaking to The Free Press Journal, however, BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said changing Mumbai's coastal boundary is not done by the BMC, which has no role to play in it. The nodal agencies for this are the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority(MCZMA) and Ministry of Environmental and Forest (MoEF), he said. He pointed out that the CRZ notification cannot be amended only for one city, and the notification for the entire state’s coastline would have to be altered.
"I don't see a change in the coastal boundary for the next 5-7 years at least, as the 2011 CRZ revised notification has been implemented only recently. Also, this notification does not mention the coastal road project. In fact, no properties falling under CRZ ambit in Mumbai can take the benefit of the Development Plan (DP)-2034, although it was approved in October 2018, due to the status quo imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT),” said Chahal.
The civic chief added, “For instance, at Nariman Point near Manora, a piece of land is vacant and it is of the Government of India’s Income tax office ownership, where they want to construct a head office. As per the DP 2034 they can avail 4 FSI. However, due to the prevailing NGT status quo, they can only take 1.33 FSI benefit as per the previous Development Control Regulation (DCR) rule. Though several meetings have taken place between the Income Tax Commissioner and me, we (BMC) cannot do anything as BMC approves building development only as per the CRZ approved notifications.
“Moreover, the CRZ notification cannot be amended for one city. Maharashtra has 700kms of coastline and notification for the entire stretch needs to be altered,” Chahal said. He added that altering the CRZ boundary is a very long and complicated process, but not impossible, and may happen if the concerned agencies plan to do so.
Meanwhile, civil work on the project is going on in full swing. Vijay Nighot, Chief Engineer of BMC's coastal road project, said that 89 hectares have already been reclaimed, of the target of 111 hectares.