The land development committee of the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has presented the final draft of its recommendations on developing 1800 acres of land along Mumbai’s eastern coast to Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari. The plan is expected to integrate the 28-km-long defunct port trust land, from Colaba to Wadala, with the rest of the city, adding to the city’s depleting open space reserves and decongesting its traffic.
While Gadkari is expected to officially unveil the plan soon, he has instructed the MbPT to lay the groundwork for implementing the report by acting against lease violators, preventing further encroachment and consolidating port operations on one portion of the land.
The panel has recommended that the special planning authority, Mumbai Port Land Development Authority (MPLDA), which will soon be set up to execute its recommendations, should be chaired by Gadkari himself. “Just like the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority is chaired by the chief minister, the committee is of the opinion that the independent authority should be chaired by the Union Shipping Minister. It should also have a strong representation from the state government as well as from the port trust,” said Narinder Nayar, chairman of NGO Mumbai First and member of the panel that is chaired by former MbPT chairperson Rani Jadhav.
In its draft report, the panel has recommended that port operations should be rationalized so that the freed portions of land can be used for setting up three additional north-south mass rapid transit corridors, zones for heritage and ecology conservation, promotion of exports, employment and entrepreneurship as well as tourism and entertainment zones. The panel has also suggested that the coastline be made accessible to the public by creating a promenade and that 30 per cent of the total area should be developed as open spaces. “The minister is in fact of the opinion that the open space component should be as high as 50 per cent,” said Nayar.
Rajive Kumar, secretary for the Union Shipping Ministry, said that while the presentation of the report was made last week, the ministry would issue further orders once the report is formally submitted. “In the meantime, the port trust chairman will work out ways to deal with the many estates that have been leased out on their land,” he said.
About 47 per cent of the land is occupied by 2,500 odd lessees, many of whose leases have expired. Others have defaulted on their rent payments or violated lease conditions by sub-leasing it or using the land for purpose other than what it was allotted for.
“MbPT officials informed Gadkari that of the total 700 lease violators and defaulters, notices have been served in only 400 cases. The minister instructed officials to initiate immediate eviction action in case of breaches and work on recovery of interest and market rent from defaulters,” said a panel member.
He added that while accepting the panel’s recommendations in toto, the ministry has warned MbPT against allowing any further encroachment on its land. Presently, there are over 30,000 shanties spread across port trust land and most slum-dwellers are involved in scrap dealing, ship repairs and breaking. Moreover, the port trust has also being asked to give a compliance report on consolidating port activities to south of the land. This includes coming up with alternate plans for the environmentally hazardous ship-breaking in Darukhana and handling of polluting cargo such as rock phosphate and coal.