‘Tricky’ MoEF circular stalls city redevelopment projects

'Linking height of building to road width doesn't make sense in Mumbai'

A February circular of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) that seeks to regulate the height of a building based on the width of the road and its distance from the nearest fire station has left several developers wary of bringing their proposals for approval before the state environment panel.

Since August, as many as 160 proposals were listed by the state expert appraisal committee of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) for discussion with project developers. However, a fifth of the developers stayed away from these discussions fearing either rejection by the committee or a demand for recasting the proposals.

"For some, it may be true the proposal is not yet ready, but many are abstaining because of the new circular. The developers had frozen their plans much before the circular was issued. If they come to us with proposals that do not adhere to the ministry's new guidelines, we will have to ask them to recast their proposals, which may be difficult for them," said Ravi Bhushan Budhiraja, chairman of the state level expert appraisal committee for MMR.

The circular has been criticised by developers, real estate experts and bureaucrats alike, saying it will stall development as it is not feasible to apply the guidelines to a city like Mumbai where most of the roads are narrow.

Developers who have remained absent for state environment panels include names such as Riddhi Siddhi Corp, Pratiksha Real Estate Private Limited, Gurukrupa Developers and Eversmile Construction. Of the 30 no-shows in the past five months, half have been proposals pertaining to slum rehabilitation projects.

"It is more difficult for rehabilitation projects because developers have to otherwise cut down on their sell component, making the project financially unviable. Developers get a benefit in floor space index for undertaking projects of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority. If they can't utilise it, then what is the point?" a member on the state expert appraisal panel said.

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