Friday, September 21, 2012

Additional FSI & the City!

“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”... Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Recently  Hon. Central Housing Minister made a statement that its high time that the FSI ( Floor Space Index) of majority of the cities of the country needs to be increased to accommodate more & more people migrating in the cities. Its’ probably the first time any ruling minister have openly quoted about sensitive issue of FSI like that! The mere thought can make the developers & land lords go merry whereas the same thought can give jitters to most of the NGO's , Environmentalists! I think in last 2 or 3 decades the most popular term must be “FSI” after the term “Bofors” which got infamous after the scandal of buying the Guns of that company by Govt then, such is the power these three letters carries. Agreed still more than 70% population of this country lives in villages but the picture is changing fast. As I have repeatedly mentioned villages are becoming towns & towns are becoming cities & cities getting turned in to Metros. Reason for this may be any but we can’t deny the facts & figures. This is good or bad, well I am not the authority on that but what to do with this continuous flow of population towards the urban cities is the question! Quite a funny lot we are as a society, as when ever it’s as important issue as FSI, we allow our hearts to rule our brains! As the famous writer says it’s high time now to think in which direction we are moving especially on FSI front when its urban development .

As I said above ask any developer, more popularly known as builder, & he will say yes increase in FSI is most welcome; so will say the land lord who is holding any piece of land within or around the city. The logic is simple the land potential will increase & one can build more homes on the same piece of land, obliviously that’s opportunity of making more money for the people related to it. For this we need to understand what is FSI? Actually the term is very commonly used all across the urban cities in the country. It means floor space index, it’s the ratio which decided how much you can build on a particular piece of land. Though it’s governed by the local body i.e. Municipal Corporation or Nagar Parishad yet mostly it’s 1 all across the country. That means on 1000 sq ft of land you can build maximum of 1000sft construction. In cities like Mumbai is 2.5 to 3.0 but the Mumbai Municipal Corporation has different bylaws & they had limitation to expand as it’s an island covered by sea on three sides. The situation wasn’t same with most of the other towns & cities but then rate of growth was not also anticipated when the rule of 1 FSI has been adopted by most of the cities. Even for city of Pune its expected that the population of the city will touch 25 lacs in 2025, a figure which the city achieved nearly 15 years before the predicted date! On one side we keep on talking about affordable homes to all classes of the society & other side we don’t have any concrete action plan that how we are going to achieve this?

Presently we too have the FSI ratio as 1 in our corporation as well outside of corporation limit. The way city has been increasing in past few years soon the expand will be such that there will be no agricultural land in nearly 50km radius from the city center, rather there already isn’t any. Similarly in last few years there has been immense building activity in catchment areas of the dams serving to Pune & it has definitely affected the rain fall as well runoff. The Khadkwasala dam’s silting rate has been increased as large portion of vegetation has been cut in its catchment area making the soil erosion increase a lot. The ground water in surrounding also going down as in this extended as these building residents needs water & presently there isn’t any water supply scheme or system in existence. So ground water or tankers which again are being filled by water from bore wells, is the only source of the supply. Once upon a time the hills & fields around city were thickly covered with greens & variety of flora & fauna. Now only in some patches like NDA hill, we can see the evidence of this green past.  We need to mark a line for city expansion to conserve the surrounding natural habitats.

On this background the concept of increasing the FSI norms can be a good option by many. This will or can serve two purposes, first is increasing potential of existing land so making more homes available in the same land & second is reduce the horizontal expansion of the city. As when a city expands horizontally naturally all the basic infrastructure like roads, drainage, water & power needs to be provided to this growth. It’s a costly as well time consuming matter, though not at all impossible many will say. Issue is when we will be giving additional FSI these two purposes are being served has to be assured first. Many norms will be required to change as just changing FSI norms isn’t going to solve the problem. More FSI means more people on same land so tenement density has to be increased. Height of building & the norms of coverage as well side margins i.e. distances from the boundaries of the plot to the building has to be relaxed. Most important is accommodating parking of this increased population. Rather before going for such type of solution things like traffic congestion & strengthening of public transport needs to be taken in account & solved first or else it will only add on chaos which we are already facing on roads.

Also we need to understand that just making additional FSI available for the land won’t make the homes affordable as the landlords will immediately increase the land rates knowing the potential of the same. Also we will be required to go for high rise buildings to consume this FSI which will be adding to the construction cost of the building. We need to understand that cost of the houses is directly proportional to the land cost. So when we will be making additional FSI available then we have to make a upper cap on selling of the additional homes or a system by which they will be delivered to the needy ones & maintained too. Or else no one can assure that the only beneficiary of this decision will be landlords & in some present the builders making more money out of this additional FSI!

Then there are NGO’s as well Environmentalists whose claim is such decision will imbalance the basic structure of city environment as well the city’s infrastructure. There is some truth here as we are seeing all around we are unable t provide basic things like water & drainage or safe travel on roads to the existing city. What guaranty is there that with the load of this additional homes the city won’t collapse? The city’s underground water lines are leaking & drainage lines are chocked as well they are already age old & unable to carry the load of exiting population. There has to be a complete new setup of this all infrastructure then only it will be advisable for going in for additional FSI. Another important factor is reducing biodiversity within the city. As already there are very less green patches & space for the greening & biodiversity depending on the trees. With more number of buildings on the same area means we will be having even lesser space for the tree plantation. This aspect also have to be looked after.

Then comes issues of sufficient social infrastructure like Drama Theaters, Schools, Public Health, Play grounds, Parks & many such. Shame that we call this city as cultural capitol of the State & there hasn’t been a single new drama theater build in last 20 years or so, nor we have any art gallery or museum! We have thousands of private educational facilities but like the home where is affordable & quality education available to common man? With increasing population we have to plan for these neglected but equally important aspects of life too.

Agreed first priority of the Govt should be making a good home available to every segment of the society & here is where wise words like the quote above has to be remembered while taking any such decision like FSI when it’s related to the city & its citizens. Because a quality life doesn’t mean just making good water or roads available to the citizens but it means providing good social environment too!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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1 comment:

  1. i read the document thoroughly,
    jst want to mention that
    although you or us people go for quality life
    but most of people ignore it.....
    even gvrn body knows ifs & doubts but look what is happening in our area @ 33 major power sector company coming for generating energy... and surprisingly they jst looking for COAL but no 1 realising @ other sources for producing ENERGY.Where & What arrangements made by col/govt to give them adequate water/land etc..,,,
    After all we r HELPLESS jst we think



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