Union minister for housing and urban poverty alleviation Ajay Maken has joined the chorus for a higher FSI (floor space index, or number of floors for a given area) in Mumbai to create more housing for this still growing megapolis. It is a demand that builders too have been pressing for and many citizens remain hopeful that higher FSI can mean more flats, which, in turn, can bring down prices or at least stabilise the prices.
It has been pointed out that Mumbai’s FSI — 1 in the suburbs and 1.33 in the city — is among the lowest, and the demand is to raise it to at least 4. The state government has already done that in parts. For instance, the FSI is pegged at 4 in the Dharavi redevelopment project in an attempt to make it viable for builders. Similarly, the government reserves the right to increase the FSI where it deems necessary.
However, environmentalists and activists warn that blindly increasing FSI will only worsen the quality of life in Mumbai, a congested and cramped city. They rightly point out that if FSI is higher in the West, it is because the cities there possess superior infrastructure, including better public transport and open spaces.
No one can deny that Mumbai needs far more housing than is available at present, and one way to do that is to make better use of the existing land with a higher FSI. Yet, while increasing FSI is welcome, it should be done in such a way that it adds to the quality of life of a Mumbaikar. The state must also look at improving the city’s infrastructure so that Mumbai can rank as one of the best cities in the world.