The Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) seems to be finally breaking the ice with the state government. It may part with its unused land to provide for housing and even hand over some open space for the waterfront development.
The 134-year-old port, which occupies about 1,800acre of land — as big as 30 Nariman Points in the heart of Mumbai — and runs across 14.5km of the city coastline from Colaba to Wadala, is inaccessible to the public.
A suggestion to form a special purpose vehicle to look at freeing up available land, possible usage and financial strategy had been made in the recent port standing committee meeting, headed by chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad, earlier this month.
“We have asked the port officials to identify certain areas that they might be open for development and also for developing a marina. A part of the port land is also required for the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project, which we have asked for. We have had a positive response,” said Rahul Asthana, member of the committee and also Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) chief.
MMRDA is the implementing agency of the port plan. Much of the port land is encroached upon and given out on lease, which the port authorities need to take a call on, Asthana added. Narinder Nayar, chairman of Bombay First and member of the committee, said the port has a positive view over the issue.
Bombay First is a think tank of a group of citizens and business communities working on the Mumbai Makeover.
“We have put forth the idea of floating a special purpose vehicle to help authorities identify lease plots that are unused and devise a formula to benefit the lessees to give up the land. The authorities seem comfortable in letting a part of unused land being used for the city development, while the port will continue to function,” Nayar said.
These free areas, he added, could be used for housing economically weaker families and even for low-cost housing. Also, Mumbaiites will be able to enjoy the benefit of a waterfront that can be developed as a marina.
In July 2010, then state ports minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil had suggested shifting the port outside the city after finding hazardous material in the docks. He had suggested for freeing up the entire land saying it does not have enough port activities and only adds to traffic congestion. The idea was opposed by port officials, considering it has 19,000 employees.