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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Not revamping 966ha of port land, only re-planning 282ha: Mumbai Port Trust chief

After HT series, Sanjay Bhatia says 66% of land is being opened up for city

mumbai Updated: Feb 08, 2019 07:15 IST
Tanushree Venkatraman and Ketaki Ghoge
Tanushree Venkatraman and Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times
He pointed out that the reclaimed land could create a 93-ha garden for the city.
He pointed out that the reclaimed land could create a 93-ha garden for the city.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) chairman Sanjay Bhatia on Thursday said the authority was not looking at opening up all 966.3 hectares (ha) of the port land between Wadala and Colaba for redevelopment, as the port would require most of its land for the existing commercial activities and cruise tourism, which is the new focus.

Bhatia, in an interview to Hindustan Times, said only a portion of the total land, 282.57ha across Darukhana, Haji Bunder and Cotton Green, can be freed for development, while 66% of it can be opened up for the city. He said MbPT was open to suggestions from citizens and would not insist on reclamation if the environment ministry or citizens are against it. At the same time, he pointed out that the reclaimed land could create a 93-ha garden for the city.

Justifying MbPT’s draft proposal, Bhatia pointed out that the 2014 plan of the Rani Jadhav committee was too broad and could be implemented in toto only 20 years down the line, after the port activities come to a halt.

In a three-part series this week, HT highlighted how the port trust’s draft planning proposal stressed on commercial development on idle port land, which urban planners said should be used for the public in the form of open spaces and amenities.

Excerpts from the interview:

MbPT’s plan is being criticised for its emphasis on commercial development, unlike previous reports that looked at more open spaces…

The whole of MbPT land, as of today, is commercial land being used for port activities. MbPT earns ₹1,700 crore through these activities. We have no plans of shutting it down. While it is true that our cargo traffic is not growing [it is stable], we have identified ‘cruise development and sea tourism’ as our new growth area. That’s the reason we have built a domestic and international cruise terminal here.

If we don’t consider reclaimed land, the area [under MbPT’s purview) comes to 873 hectares, of which we are looking at developing only 282.57 hectares. Of this, 187.5ha is for open spaces, roads, grid network and amenities for citizens, close to 66.4% of the planned area. We have also reserved 18ha for tourism-related activities such as developing themed-piers, which will be open to all. Only 69.64 hectares of this planned development is reserved for commercial uses. We need money to fund the redevelopment after all (Total cost: ₹5,655 crore).

What do you plan to develop on 69.64ha meant for commercial growth?

This commercial area can be like a mini-Bandra-Kurla Complex, a host of legal and financial offices can come up here. There will also be tourism-cum-cultural development here. It will create several job opportunities. But, first we are looking at developing a Central government office complex by leasing our land to government corporations and public sector undertakings. We hope to generate ₹4,000 crore from this. Around 14.31 hectares will be for residential development. Only after five to seven years, we will think of generating revenues on the lines of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) by auctioning plots here. But there will be no private developers until then.

The Rani Jadhav committee, which was appointed in 2014 by the Centre, had a different vision, where it stressed more on open and recreational spaces for citizens.

The 2014 plan was broader, for the entire area, and included suggestions that can probably be developed after 20 years when the port activities are shut. However, we have taken several ideas from that plan and incorporated it in our draft. For instance, we have included water transport – we are developing a 7-km waterfront, more than twice the size of Marine Drive, which will be open to all. Our aim is to move towards cruise tourism, which was probably not envisioned earlier. A majority of ports around the world where metropolitan cities came up shifted to cruise along with cargo activities.

The committee also elaborated on sectoral plans for different areas in MbPT’s jurisdiction with mixed-land use. For instance, Elphinstone estate had a mix of inclusive housing, office spaces and open spaces.

Right now, we are not looking at major development in Elphinstone Estate. If you consider all areas under port trust, we are not the special planning authority for Colaba and it doesn’t need to be redeveloped. Further north, the Navy area does not belong to MbPT. We are not going to redevelop Ballard estate and dockyard areas. Mazagaon docks or the oil-tank farms also cannot be developed. Therefore, the only free land available is at Darukhana, which has slums, and Cotton Green, which we are re-doing. At Wadala, we have housing for our staff and we plan to shift close to 20,000 slum dwellers there. We have not yet worked out how slum rehabilitation will be implemented and how much housing stock can be created from this.

MbPT’s plan to reclaim land at Haji Bunder has been severely opposed by activists…

We are talking about giving 66% of open spaces (this includes roads, amenities and grid) even without reclamation. By reclamation, we will make another 93-ha garden. Without it, we are looking at a 53-ha garden. If the Ministry of Environment does not approve reclamation and citizens don’t want it, we will not do it. We are also seriously considering all 950 objections that we have got. We are open to changes and suggestions.

What is the next step?

The hearing for all suggestions/objections is on, after which we will send it to the Maharashtra government for approval and then the Central government for a final nod.

First Published: Feb 08, 2019 01:24 IST