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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Decisions of using Mumbai’s land can’t be made by Delhi: Aaditya Thackeray

Aaditya Thackeray, Yuva Sena chief, says his party is against govts looking at the city as commercial jackpot, wants to create open and green spaces

mumbai Updated: Feb 13, 2019 07:24 IST
Tanushree Venkatraman
Tanushree Venkatraman
Hindustan Times
Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray speaks to HT about the MbPT’s new development plan
Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray speaks to HT about the MbPT’s new development plan(HT Photo)

Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray, in an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times, said decisions related to the city’s land can’t be taken in New Delhi, referring to the Mumbai Port Trust’s (MbPT) new development plan, which has reserved 25% of its land for commercial development.

MbPT released the plan for the 966.3ha between Colaba and Wadala in December 2018. Demanding that the Centre release the 2014 Rani Jadhav committee report on rejuvenating port lands, Aaditya said his party, the Shiv Sena, was against the government looking at Mumbai as a “commercial jackpot”.

HT has been consistently reporting on the proposals in the new plan, which could take away Mumbai’s last hope of getting more recreational spaces.

Edited excerpts from the email interview:

The past decade has seen constant talks of redevelopment of the port. Mumbai’s port activities, too, have reduced over the years because of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT). This has given rise to the idea that the port land can give Mumbai some open spaces. Experts, however, claim that the MbPT’s new draft proposal focuses more on commercial development. What is the Shiv Sena’s view on this?

We are absolutely against governments that see Mumbai as a commercial jackpot and look to exploit its land value. The sad part is most of this planning is done by people who don’t love Mumbai. The east coast of the city is something that we have often spoken of, and [know that it] can be developed into a fantastic open space for all Mumbaiites without attaching commercial value to it. We often praise cities around the world and realise the value of green spaces there. Why don’t we do the same here?

Citizens fear the port land revamp could suffer the same fate as mill land development leaving no open space for the city. What is your stand?

The land belongs rightfully to Mumbai. It was under the jurisdiction of the trust because it was a port. However, after JNPT and an increase in traffic there, the MbPT has no business holding on to what belongs to Mumbai, and more so, has no right to sell it and make money from it.

What would you call the ideal plan for port land development?

The land already has roads and railroads. A lot of small-scale industries, offices, homes have been there for generations. Opening up spaces that belong to MbPT and the junkyards could create huge gardens and promenades for citizens. Which city in the world has a junkyard in its prime dock area?

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had re-initiated the debate on port land development in 2014. Has the party or the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) been kept in the loop about the new development plan?

Obviously, the BMC has no current holding in the area, as the MbPT is the planning authority. We had requested the Hon’ble Shipping Minister to hand over the land back to Mumbai, but he had wished to develop open spaces via MbPT because of some apparent legal hurdles. They also set up the Rani Jadhav committee. The report of the committee must first be made public before letting an opaque, non-democratic institution like MbPT exploit our city commercially. Decisions of using Mumbai’s land can’t be made by New Delhi. Mumbaiites will decide on it.

The port trust plans a commercial district with business and finance centres. There have been talks of growth centres across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, including Kalyan, Oshiwara and Navi Mumbai. Is there a need for a new commercial district in the city?

I believe the port trust should first do the job at its hand well. The east coast is a beautiful bay and yet we don’t have proper jetties or infrastructure to access boats or necessary arrangements for people to sail, or even reach the bay. Before showing false dreams, they must do their job well, or hand it over to the city authorities.

A lot of questions are being raised about the informal sector in the area and the tenants who are being evicted. Is the Sena looking at their concerns?

The Sena, especially South Mumbai MP Arvind Sawant, has taken up the issue with the Shipping Minister consistently and solved a lot of the problems. But again, the opaqueness of the decisions makes it tough for people living there for generations.

The plan talks of reclaiming 93ha near Haji Bunder to build an iconic park. The BMC is also planning a central park at Backbay. This means Mumbai will get two huge open spaces in the corners of the city, instead of walkable gardens. What is your view on this?

Not really. This is factually untrue, just desk thoughts. Each year, the BMC develops many new gardens and open spaces. From 2012 to 2017, 117 new theme gardens and more playgrounds were created in small, crammed concrete spaces. Of course, the Backbay garden, the proposed racecourse open space and the east coast, along with 96ha of open space from the coastal road reclamation, would help. We are committed to more green and open spaces in the city, rather than just commercial exploitation, as we were born here, will live and love this city forever.

First Published: Feb 12, 2019 23:47 IST