Mumbai Port Trust authorities have said their refusal to release the 1,800 acres of land along the eastern seaboard has the city’s interest at heart.
That expanse of land — stretching for 14.5 km from Colaba to Wadala — was seen by urban planners and the government as one of the solutions to the city’s hunt for open spaces. Mumbai Port Trust Deputy Chairman Ashok Bal said on Tuesday the port and the city “have a stake in the growth of each other”.
The flourishing port, Bal said, contributes a great deal to trade in the city and the region: it has gone from handling 26 million tonnes of cargo in 2001 to more than 50 million metric tones this fiscal. “If the port is not there, the city and the state government will lose out as cargo handling will shift to other centres.”
The HT had reported on Tuesday how the Port Trust, in a recent meeting with senior state government officials, had made it clear that it had no surplus land and the most it could hand over in the city precincts may be as little as 12 acres. The report was discussed at the Port Trust’s board meeting on Tuesday.
But the government will not let go so easily. While the Port Trust said it needed the land to build container freight stations (container traffic for the region is projected to soar over the next eight years), the government offered port authorities land in Alewadi village in Dahanu, 70 km off the Mumbai coast.
“The coast off Dahanu can be used for deep-sea and port activities,” said Sanjay Ubale, secretary, special projects and the state government’s point person for Mumbai’s makeover.
Senior government officials admitted that the Port Trust had vacant land but said it was not being utilised properly. A report on the eastern waterfront by the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) and Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture had drawn similar conclusions. The Port Trust had rejected it.
The government felt the land could be used to ease traffic congestion. Bal said that would happen in any case: the bulk of the proposed Eastern Freeway would pass over Port Trust land; and cargo containers would travel from Wadala to Kurla through a rail link that the Port Trust would spend Rs 133 crore to build.
He said the port plans to build a marine promenade, a terminal for cruise liners and entertainment-cum-convention centres in South Mumbai.
Selling the land, though, will not be so simple. SR Kulkarni, a trustee of the Mumbai Port Trust, said the government’s claims on the land and its plans for it will only help builders.
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