Zone Change in Maharashtra: Then why are we spending time and money in preparing Plans??

Many years ago, I had read an article in a book called Readings on Planning Theory by Scott Campbell and Susan Fainstein (, which made an argument that ad hoc, incremental planning is a valid "planning theory", as this is exactly what governments end up doing, even after they have spent extraordinary amounts of time, money and efforts on preparing master or comprehensive development plans.

The article stated that ad hocism (if that is even a word?) is a part and parcel of government working! Well, this is certainly true of Maharashtra Urban Development Department. I just happened to read the Government Regulation (GR) TPS-1815/49/15/13 dated 11 June 2015. which has formally and procedurally inserted 'Zone Change' as a very routine process that land owners/developers can apply to change the designated Zone allocated to the land in the Master Plan (Regional Plan). The whole basis of Planning, particularly in case of Regional Plans, is the zone or the landuse allocation! All other aspects of planning, including estimates of population growth, transport needs etc are derived from the allocation of landuse zone. So, essentially, if the government is now allowing ad hoc Zone Changes, that essentially means a complete death of any efforts of Planning in the State.

While the GR prescribes an elaborate procedure for the Zone Change, which includes making an assessment of whether the Zone Change is justified or not, it necessarily means that everyone and anyone can change the Zone of Land allocated by Planners to just about any other Zone that the land owner/Developer wishes. Once this starts rolling, we, citizens will realise that there are no denials to change of Zone. So effectively, whoever applies will get the Zone Change at a fee prescribed in the GR itself. The stated formality of 'checking' if the zone change is justified or not, remains merely on paper. Bureacrats responsible for signing these Zone Changes will neither be empowered to say NO nor will they have a Planning procedure to check the justification of such a change and its ensuing impact on overall Planning of the area.

While, I agree that a the Master Plan certainly becomes too rigid a plan for 20 years, when we see economic policy and other aspects change the scenarios every few years or so. However, such an ad hoc and random zone change procedures without assessing the impact on the immediate surroundings, transport infrastructure etc, is an invitation to disaster. Such ad hoc decisions, we find, have created chaos everywhere, be it cities or its fringes. To give a quick example, if the Regional Plan has retained an Agricultural Zone, then the requirements of supporting infrastructure are very different than if the Zone was allocated a Residential or Commercial purpose. Traffic patterns would be completely different, if the same parcel of land is used for Agriculture versus when used for Residential development. Similarly, requirements of water and generation of waste and the essential infrastructure needed for this, will change when Zone changes.

So typically, we will always find that the government or public infrastructure lags far behind land development. At the same time, when government, through other mechanisms like Environmental Clearances asks for this basic infrastructure while giving Clearances, the private land development sector cries that its red taping development! So the government is, by its own doing, falling into a trap of first facilitating landuse/zone conversions and then inhibiting land development, in areas that do not have basic infrastructure.

So I ask, what prompts the government to issue such a GR? Is it for generating more Revenue? If it is, why not change /revise the Regional Plan itself when it is being made or through proper mechanisms listed under the MR&TP Act? If its not revenue, then is it to meet the demand for housing? If so, these zone conversions happen only on the city's fringe, where housing is already affordable. This housing does not give houses to the poor in any case, but rather are second homes to the rich. Someone may argue that these housing units will give a good rental opportunity. But we have to remember, any housing without being linked by safe, reliable and affordable public transport to the city, will never find popularity, particularly with the middle class, even if the rental rates are super attractive low.

This GR is a classic example of a government bureaucracy 'muddling' its way through systems that are formed to ensure some Planned development.  For us, citizens, this 'adhocism' translates into traffic jams, power outages and water supply deficiencies - a reality that we face every day!


  1. या नव्या नियोजन पद्धतीला मुक्त नियोजन असे नाव देऊन त्याचा समावेश नागरनियोजनात करावा, जो जे वांछिल तो ते लाभों

  2. या नव्या नियोजन पद्धतीला मुक्त नियोजन असे नाव देऊन त्याचा समावेश नागरनियोजनात करावा, जो जे वांछिल तो ते लाभों

    1. True! Why do a farce of planning? And spend so many years and efforts and money for plans, when all that is takes is a GR signed by a bureaucrat to make any change as deemed necessary!

  3. An interesting post. Look forward to reading your analysis on urban policy issues.


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