To decongest Indian cities, Narendra Modi govt considers relaxing height restrictions on buildings

The Narendra Modi government has formed a panel to explore the possibility of upward revision of Floor Space Index

The rapid surge in India’s urban population has led to a space shortage in all the major cities. The impending crisis has been further deepened by the restricted Floor Space Index which has resulted in unabated horizontal growth and high congestion in Indian cities. FSI could be described as the extent of buildable area allowed on any given plot. India’s FSI, according a 2017 NITI Aayog report, is severely low – in the range of 1 to 1.5.

To address this issue, the Narendra Modi government has formed a panel to explore the possibility of upward revision of Floor Space Index (FSI) norms in all major cities in the country.

The Housing and Urban ministry has asked the panel comprising of officials and external experts for a time-bound review of FSI norms so as to promote compact, vertical growth in India’s urban space, The Indian Express reported

The ministry has also asked urban local bodies of the seven major cities — Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad — to submit a report within the next 10 days on their existing FSI norms and usage.

However, the ministry has made it clear that any policy on enhancing the FSI will depend on whether the urban local body wants to implement the recommendations of the expert panel.

Indian Express

Niti Aayog report

The ministry’s move is based on a 2017 NITI Aayog report that said that paucity of land can be “countered by expanding space vertically through the construction of taller buildings”. It said that the permitted FSI in Indian cities is low – in the range of 1 to 1.5.

High rise in periphery creates transportation problem

The report also noted that when cities have allowed high-rise buildings in the recent past, it has usually done so in the peripheral regions rather than in the centre of the city.

“The result is a shortage of space in the central business district, which is then reserved for commercial use only.With residential units thus pushed exclusively to the periphery, this FSI pattern leads to heavy burden on the transportation system,” the report states adding that Delhi is a case in point.

High rise cities with more open space

The report cites the national capital region, with a low-rise Delhi and highrise Noida-Gurgaon, standing 123 on the density scale. In comparison, Shanghai is place 423rd while Tokyo (632), New York (944), Chicago (965) have even lower population densities as also more green open spaces.

Indian Express

Notedly,  cities such as New York, Chicago, and Tokyo exceed the average FSI of Indian cities by 12 to 20 times.

Urban experts opposed to the idea

Many urban experts are critical of the idea of high-rises on the ground that  Indian cities have highest population densities in the world and the upward revision would be a further strain on the infrastructure.

Speaking with Indian Express,  Debolina Kundu, Associate Professor at the National Institute of Urban Affairs, said that liberalising supply of real estate space through higher FSI doesn’t necessarily translate into creation of affordable housing adding that developers often try to maximise profits by constructing houses for the higher income groups.

“It has never happened that affordable housing is created from higher FSI,” she added.

Citing the transportation problem in peripheral areas of Delhi , she added that any increase in FSI should be preceded by creation of basic infrastructure such as water supply, roads, and public transport,