ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fragmentary Planning and Spaces of Opportunity in Peri-urban Mumbai

Rapid de-agrarianisation and transformation of the rural has been unleashed by “fragmentary” urban planning processes in peri-urban Mumbai. An overview of the outcomes on the ground seen in relation to the urban planning processes is presented through a case study of villages around Panvel city, the last station on one of Mumbai’s suburban railway lines. This paper specifically engages with spatial planning in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and foregrounds the results of fragmentary planning on the ground. It highlights the schism that exists between sovereign planning by administrative or political leadership and technical planning by planners through spatial plans, which renders the spatial expertise of technical planning almost irrelevant to the transformation underway. Additionally, the urban bias of technical planning ensures that the rural either gets overlooked or is transformed as the future urban.

The research was funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council’s—Major Collaborative Research Initiative, “Global Suburbanisms: Governance, Land, and Infrastructure in the 21st Century.” An earlier version of this paper was presented at the “Frontier Urbanism: Tracking Transformation in Agrarian–Urban Hinterlands of South Asia” workshop, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 24–25 February 2017.

The paper has benefi ted from detailed comments and feedback provided by Shubhra Gururani, Xuefei Ren and Lalitha Kamath. The author also acknowledges all the help towards the fi eldwork and insights gained through discussion with Himanshu Burte, and especially for coining the term “sovereign planning.” Thanks are due to Atul Mhatre, Bansi Ghevade, Shachi Sanghvi, Sitaram Shelar and Smita Dalvi, who helped immensely with local contacts and all the interviewees for their valuable time and insights

In Maharashtra, where close to half of the total population is urban (45.23%, Census 2011) informal urban expansion through gunthewaris (unauthorised plotted layouts), is common in small and medium cities, which are later regularised by the state over time (Bhide 2014). Urban expansion processes are different in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), comprising 4,312 sq km, housing 22.8 million people with nine municipal corporations, eight municipal councils and 994 villages (MMRDA 2016). The ease of connectivity to Greater Mumbai, where 60% of the formal jobs are located, via the suburban train network, is central to the growth of various towns in the region. The introduction of direct and “fast” suburban train services to south Mumbai that reduce commutes, serves as the trigger for urban growth in the region. Thus, it was the extension of the suburban railway line in 1998 connecting Navi Mumbai to Panvel that hastened its transformation into a peri-urban suburb of Mumbai. Since 2008, the announcement of the location of the second international airport near Kopra–Panvel, has been the trigger for major urban development in the villages around Panvel, that is, however, poorly regulated.

There is a significant body of literature on the processes underway in peri-urban areas around metropolitan centres in the global South, and on their governance challenges. Planning has always played a significant role in the peri-urban and has been described as “flexible” (Gururani 2013) and marked by “informality”(Roy 2005). Benjamin (2007) uses the concept of “occupancy urbanism” to describe how mega plans/projects actualise on the ground while Kennedy (2007) details out impact of regional industrial policy interventions on the peri-urban. This paper seeks to detail out the impact of the fragmentary dynamics of planning on the peri-urban. From the planner’s perspective, I make the case for breaking down “planning” into its constituents, “sovereign planning” and “technical planning.” Technical planning here refers to spatial planning by trained or professional planners (that results in development plans or regional plans and is an instrument of the state while sovereign planning refers to all other state actions that have a spatial impact (such as policies, projects, schemes, infrastructural plans), and are typically undertaken by the administrative and political leadership with no leadership by technical planners in the core conceptualisation. State planning is largely economic planning and a-spatial in conception. Further, in the case of the transformation of the agrarian landscape around Panvel, it is urban planning, and particularly the sovereign planning interventions (with technical planning serving merely as instrument) that have served as key drivers of the current “regime of dispossession” (Levien 2013) that are extensions of the state’s developmentalist role.

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Updated On : 30th Apr, 2018
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