NIMBY is not a term we often hear in India, though it is quite a popular word (and a dynamic concept) in the West. That said, NIMBY – an acronym for ‘Not In My Back Yard – is definitely an unspoken mind-set when it comes to residential real estate in India.
Basically, ‘Nimbys’ are residents of a locality of project who are opposed to the implementation of a certain initiative by the Government, industries or private developers in their neighbourhood. Classic examples in the Indian context are flyovers, chemical factories, power plants and in fact any kind of development that could conceivably obstruct the view, disrupt the peace or pollute the air.
‘Nimbyism’ does exist in the Indian real estate space, but the choices of opponents to certain developments within their neighbourhoods is generally quite restricted. The Indian real estate space is still largely unorganized, and problems such as encroachment, unauthorized structures and lack of scientific town planning are still the order of the day in most of our cities.
The concepts of regulated real estate development and macro-level town planning are beginning to take hold and are, in fact, already operational in cities like Chandigarh, Navi Mumbai and even in Pune. While this evolution is happening against a large backdrop of damage that already been done and is difficult to undo, this does not mean that ‘Nimbyism’ is a futile and impotent concept in India.
In Indian residential real estate, middle-class housing societies – administrative bodies comprised of residents within a registered housing complex – have the right to refuse unscheduled construction within the complex premises. That said, they have little or no control over what happens beyond the compound walls. In cities like Mumbai and Delhi, upscale housing complexes continue to co-exist cheek-to-jowl with slums and slapdash tenements. This is more or less accepted as a reality of life, since slums are often under the political protection.
The ultra-luxury segment presents a rather different picture. Indian cities do have their elite pockets, such as Lutyens Zone in Delhi, Nariman Point in Mumbai, Sahakar Nagar in Pune, Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad, and so on. In these areas, residents have a stronger voice over what happens in their immediate neighbourhoods – and they do raise them. This level of influence derives from a combination of factors – including the financial clout of the residents, the fact that the zones themselves are under the purview of stricter-than-usual zoning guidelines.
As such, Nimbyism is definitely not a negative concept – in fact, cities like Pune need a larger dose of it. Residents should have a say in what happens in their neighbourhoods. This is especially true if the developments they are opposing are taking place outside of the existing zoning laws and are serious threats to the health, harmony and safety. What is needed is more exacting city planning, which should ideally be part of the overall development plan for the city. Likewise, developers also have a responsibility towards ensuring the sanctity of the residential projects they create.