Hinting at the possibility of curtailing operations at the Mumbai port, Union shipping secretary Dr Vishwapati Trivedi on Friday said the ministry was looking at ways to give the city more land.
“The Mumbai port is fast losing its relevance. So we must look at ways to limit port operations to only petroleum, oil and lubricant products,” he said, speaking exclusively to the Hindustan Times.
HT has consistently reported on the freeing-up of the port land. On July 17, HT began a series on how the liberated land across the eastern waterfront gives the city a chance to reinvent itself.
Trivedi, however, clarified that no part of the land would be given to builders. “We have enough funding options, from the Reserve Bank of India to the Japan Industrial Cooperation Agency (JICA). We won’t sell the land to builders,” he said, while also hinting at the shutting down of coal-handling and ship-breaking work on the port land.
While there have been persistent demands by a section of citizens to rationalise the port’s operations, this is the first time a high-ranking official in charge of the port has acknowledged the possibility. Till recently, the shipping ministry was reluctant to open up any part of the unused docklands for redevelopment.
At a time when a Centre-appointed committee is looking at ways to redevelop the unused part of the port, this statement would mean more land is made available for facilities in the city, including a new coastline and many acres of open, green space.
Welcoming Trivedi’s statement, experts said the port must ensure the freed up land is used only for the city’s development — especially to help it grow as a service sector hub and an international finance centre, as planned earlier.
The shipping secretary, however, has clarified that restricting operations at the port was a tedious task that “would involve shifting of livelihoods, as well as remaining port operations, to a nearby port.” Many cities across the world, including London and New York, have managed to open up hitherto port areas for the public and have achieved a good synergy.
The shipping secretary, who was in the city to speak at a conference organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA), also said the committee’s report was in the final stages and that the ministry would receive it soon.