Mumbai eastern waterfront revamp: Speak up before it is too late | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Mumbai eastern waterfront revamp: Speak up before it is too late

Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai
Feb 06, 2019 08:18 AM IST

The state has commissioned two reports on development of eastern waterfront in 2014 and 2018, both offering starkly different visions.

A project catering to the city’s population of 12.5 million, a budget of 5,655 crore, an area of 966.3hectares from Wadala to Colaba, and an attempt to give away most of it for commercial development – do you need any more reason to speak up on the eastern waterfront revamp plan?

The state has commissioned two reports on development of eastern waterfront in 2014 and 2018, both offering starkly different visions.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
The state has commissioned two reports on development of eastern waterfront in 2014 and 2018, both offering starkly different visions.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

Now the next step. What should your response include? HT gets the answer from experts and citizen groups.

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THE TALE OF 2 VERSIONS

The state has commissioned two reports on development of eastern waterfront in 2014 and 2018, both offering starkly different visions.

The development plan for the congested 34.58ha of Elphinstone estate, which is part of the waterfront, in these two reports, could be a case in point. The current land use plan, released in December 2018, has marked 97% of the estate, with warehouses and small-scale industries in narrow, encroached roads with slums, for commercial use. The plan is to develop it into a central government offices complex, central business or finance district.

The report by Rani Jadhav committee in 2014, however, had envisioned public open spaces, inclusive housing, small-scale industry, entrepreneurship promotion zone (for local business), convention centre, along with office spaces.

WHICH SIDE TO TAKE?

The Centre had appointed the Jadhav committee, including urban planners, to make strategies to rejuvenate land parcels. The committee had said that 30% of the land should be reserved for open spaces. Their report was neither accepted nor rejected by the government.

“MbPT must follow the recommendations of the Rani Jadhav committee on the ratio of open spaces to be provided. The city needs walkable open spaces from north to south and not one large park reclaimed at one corner,” said Nayana Kathpalia, trustee of NGO Nagar, which looks at saving open spaces in the city.

Nagar has also objected to MbPT’s plan to reclaim 93 hectares near Haji Bunder to create an open space. In its letter to MbPT, Nagar stated, “With large-sized public open spaces planned at different corners of the city, and indeed, not on existing land, the purpose of planning for open spaces, seems to be lost. Including public open spaces in urban areas is not for arriving at numerical statistics, but to ensure that citizens get the much-needed breathing space in their vicinity.”

In its plan, MbPT has looked at providing 6sqm open space per person, more than the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) estimate of 4sqm per person and much more than the reality of 1.24sqm per person in the city.

However, a closer analysis shows that much of the open spaces reserved in the plan will not be accessible to all – as one, there is strong objection to the area being reclaimed to create a new open space and two, development of residential, commercial and port zones account for private layout open spaces (94 hectares) accessible to a group of people only.

Sanjay Bhatia, chairman, MbPT, said, “Even if we don’t get the permission for reclamation, we are giving a 45-ha garden to the city.”

He said that MbPT was not looking at residential localities where people can walk in smaller gardens. “This one large space will meet the needs of the city,” he said.

MbPT will have to get clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to undertake the large-scale reclamation. If the plan gets a nod, the garden with multi-country themes will be ready in the next three-and-a-half years, he pointed out.

NEED OF THE HOUR, CITY

Mumbaiites, in their suggestions in 2013, has sought arts and crafts markets, open spaces accessible to all, small cricket pitches, children’s parks, jogging tracks, football ground, pedestrian-only streets on the eastern waterfront. The Jadhav committee had summed it up as: “Creation of open, green spaces and multitude of recreational avenues accessible to the general public to meet the sheer dearth of such facilities in the city.”

“There are large residential areas adjacent to MbPT lands that are in dire need of amenities. MbPT should look at meeting these needs by creating a kind of symbiotic relation between the port land and the city. Nobody is asking for the whole land to be used for slum rehabilitation, but developing it as another commercial centre will not meet the needs of this city,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director of the urban design research institute (UDRI), a city-based body of town planners.

UDRI has objected to a large-scale area being reserved for commercial complexes and stressed on the need to create “inclusive housing for people from all walks of life”.

However, MbPT is of the opinion that it has to monetise the land to raise funds for the plan’s implementation. MbPT chairman, at a lecture series on Monday, said it was looking at earning 4,000 crore by leasing the land to public sector companies first.

“We will use this money to rehabilitate slums. We will not bring in private investment in the first five years,” Bhatia said. However, experts retaliated that there was no mention of this in the report and what is written in the plan is the final word on waterfront development.

NOT MANY AMENITIES

HT had earlier pointed out on how an analysis by UDRI that extrapolated the data on the National Building Code (NBC) guidelines shows that close to 137 hectares of MbPT land needs to be reserved for social amenities, while only 31 hectares are reserved. Social amenities include schools, colleges, dispensaries and recreational spaces for all.

Arun Kumar, CEO of Apnalaya, an NGO that has been working on providing social amenities in the slums of Deonar, said, “The purpose of a development plan is to envisage a scenario that benefits the city and makes its functioning better. The base of this is to provide decent basic amenities to all citizens.”

Shirish Patel, an urban planner who analysed the MbPT report, said the authority is reserving less than half of amenities than what the area actually needs. “We are missing out on a chance to over-provide the city with amenities that the rest of the city is lacking,” Patel said.

Rehabilitation of existing tenants also remains a key issue. In 1995, the Dinesh Afzalpurkar committee report recommended a slum rehabilitation scheme, which was then translated into the slum rehabilitation authority (SRA) to provide housing to slum-dwellers in Mumbai. “The report clearly stated that the city’s attitude to look at slums as encroachment needs to change. Slum-dwellers form the base of our economy and their contribution needs to be understood,” said Sitaram Shelar, an activist from the Hamara Shehar Mumbai Abhiyan and a member of Pani Haq Samiti, fighting to provide access to clean water to all slums in Mumbai.

Shelar said MbPT’s development must look at in-situ rehabilitation of the 15,000 hutments on its land. “MbPT must look at creating new opportunities to provide jobs to people in same areas,” Shelar said.

MbPT has said that the residential area reserved in the plan is for SRA schemes. “People employed in businesses such as furniture markets or selling grains will be accommodated in an incubation zone which will be given a lower FSI,” Bhatia said.

FSI or floor space index is the size of the total buildable area to its plot. The area is also dotted with people employed in works like ship-breaking, metal recycling and coal handling.

Several tenants of MbPT, who have been given eviction notices since 2015 to allegedly make way for the implementation of the plan, too, are against the plan. “Nobody is against development. But development cannot happen on the grave of a common man by snatching his livelihood and shelter. It is really sad and shameful if such development takes place,” said Pervez Cooper, who owned a warehousing business in Ballar Pier.

Cooper and 60 other tenants of the Nazir building were evicted by MbPT in 2015.

According to the proposed land-use maps of the new plan, 98% of the Ballard Estate has been reserved for commercial development.

Bhatia, however, said tenants have to pay the rents and their dues on time and eviction was a result of their failure to do so.

“Cities like Singapore are the perfect example of a smart and developed city that takes citizens’ views into consideration, keeping their livelihood and shelter intact. Why can’t MbPT take us into consideration during the development of the area,” Cooper asked

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