The panel discussion on the opportunities, aspirations and fears of opening up the eastern waterfront — Is imaginatively developing the eastern waterfront Mumbai’s last chance to reinvent itself? — at the HT for Mumbai awards function on Friday kept the room in rapt attention for nearly an hour.
From a coastline and open spaces to sports facilities and trauma centre for children and women, the suggestions from panellists and audience members kept coming. The jury for the HT for Mumbai awards — historian Dr Aroon Tikekar, former top bureaucrat Chandra Iyengar, actor and activist Rahul Bose and urban planner Pankaj Joshi — discussed the possibilities of developing 1,800 acres of Mumbai port land and the dreams it holds for the city.
Speaking about the need for citizens to rise to the occasion, Tikekar said, “The land has to be opened up, there is no doubt about it. Architects and urban planners, along with people, have to come together and pool in their ideas to make this a reality.”
Bose said the city had a lot of hopes from the project. “We need a world-class cultural hub, multi-purpose playing areas, along with a space where children and women in need of help can be attended to.”
Iyengar said the port land could transform the city’s face. “The biggest contribution the eastern waterfront could make is in being a linkage from the main city to the suburbs. Such a linkage is what the city desperately needs today,” Iyengar said.
Joshi, who was a member of the Centre-appointed panel which recommended ways on developing the land, lauded people’s involvement in the project. “When we asked people for their suggestions on what must be developed on this land, nobody asked for homes for themselves. An overwhelming majority asked for open spaces. We have tried to respect and echo people’s sentiments in this report,” he said.
The textile mill land sale, that robbed the city of precious open space and affordable housing, however, loomed large over the discussion. Each of the four panellists agreed the possibility of history repeating itself was real. But as Bose said, history also taught lessons to the city. “We are all guilty of letting what happened happen. If one million people had stood outside Mantralaya, protesting [against this sale], it wouldn’t have happened.”
Senior journalist Smruti Koppikar moderated the debate.