Cities are mechanisms that give you enough hints that there's a problem waiting to be addressed, say leading urban planners Pankaj Joshi and Rah
Pankaj Joshi is deeply saddened by the tragedy at Kamala Mills, but he is not surprised. The executive director of the city-based Urban Design Research Institute said that while Lower Parel has redeveloped, its infrastructure simply couldn't keep up.
"When it came to planning, Lower Parel was created for a certain demographic. All the amenities were planned for an industrial space. Mills did not require open spaces, but communities did," said Joshi.
According to the Development Control Regulations (DCR), which was finalised around 1993, 1/3rd of the mill land was to be given for low-cost housing; 1/3rd for open spaces and the remaining 1/3rd was supposed to go to mill owners who could take advantage of extra FSI. "But the mill owners opposed this mechanism and it went all over the place," said Joshi. However, a 2001 amendment to the DCR ruled that this 1/3rd divide would only be possible on the 'surplus' land, said Joshi. "So, for example, in the case of Jupiter Mills, MCGM got 1.1 per cent, MHADA 0.9 per cent and the mill owner got the remaining surplus plot."
A similar narrative repeated itself in Kamala Mills. "In an ideal scenario, they would have granted permissions after evaluating everything with proper application of mind." But that is clearly not the case, he said. The question to ask, he said, is whether we are giving permissions without anticipating fire. "Most people died of suffocation on Thursday night. There must be zero casualties; that's fire safety design. Damage to property in the event of a fire is expected, but no deaths should occur. In no other part of the world do you find such recklessness."
His colleague, urban planner and architect Rahul Mehrotra, echoed a similar sentiment. "When you are readapting older buildings whether in the Parel mill area, or Kala Ghoda, it becomes even more critical for basic safety standards and especially fire-related hazards to be adhered to. You need solid infrastructure if you are going to build a restaurant in an old building, or mill land."