On February 6, when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis unveils a vision for Mumbai’s transformation, he is likely to spell out the state government’s commitment to creating more districts such as Bandra Kurla Complex, his plans to turn the financial capital into a finance and entertainment hub, and on the roadmap for infrastructure-creation.
The announcements will be much-needed salve for the city, but planners point out that much of the plans are a redux of proposals and projects that previous governments have presented.
Madhav Pai, director, EMBARQ India, said every government has been speaking about creation of business districts and big-ticket transport-infrastructure projects. “There are some fundamental issues that need to be addressed. Every government is only talking about a coastal road, or a freeway or flyovers, so the message that goes out to people is to buy cars. In the short term, there is nothing to immediately boost public transport, improve bus services, redesign station areas and so on.”
Pankaj Joshi, director of Urban Design Research Institute, agrees. He said while governments have for the past 30 years talked about transforming the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), they have viewed these satellite centres as subservient to Mumbai. “Instead of focusing on linking these to Mumbai, with Mumbai being the central focus, the government should focus on improving the inner city infrastructure of these places. It is yet to be seen whether this government follows the same line of thought or makes good of the opportunity we have in the MMR today,” said Joshi.
In fact, Mumbai First, the thinktank comprising industry representatives that will host the conference titled ‘Mumbai Next: MMR Transformation,’ has itself organised a slew of such meets over the past few years with repetitive themes, speakers and proposals.
The conference will be divided into three sessions — creation of economic growth centres, developing Mumbai into an entertainment, cultural and heritage hub, and transforming it into an international financial centre, all topics that Mumbai First has itself held various seminars on.
Fadnavis will address the conclave at the end.
Narinder Nayar, chairman of Mumbai First, said, “Mumbai First is organising the conference, which is being supported by the Maharashtra government and the Union government. Officials will sit for the entire conference and address the needs of the city. The conference will bring forward issues that need to be addressed to develop this degenerating city.”
Apart from Fadnavis, Union Minister for Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu and industrialists such as Mukesh Ambani and Cyrus Mistry are expected to attend. Mumbai First is also trying to get Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to attend the meet. Representatives of the World Bank and diplomats from the European Union could also be in attendance.
The themes are the same as those highlighted 12 years ago in a ‘vision document’ for Mumbai that Mumbai First drafted along with consultancy firm McKinsey. That document, too, laid emphasis on developing additional business districts and improving connectivity. Among its suggestions were an inner ring rail, an inner ring freeway and a Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link, all projects to be discussed this weekend again.