A 2.3-kilometre stretch between Versova and the iconic Juhu beach is set to become Mumbai’s new seafront with the Maharashtra government going ahead with a plan to build a water sports facility along this stretch.
The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), a state government undertaking, has invited proposals from private agencies and individuals for turning this beachfront into a new tourist destination offering water sports facilities including speed boating, jet skiing, winch parasailing, rowing, and wind surfing, among others. The government had earlier carried out a drive to clear this coastal stretch of encroachments and shanties. A plan to turn it into a tourist hub was later drawn up.
“We have invited proposals from interested parties to develop minimum facilities with water sports facilities,” said MTDC’s managing director Parag Jain Nainuttia.
The government’s plan is to let a private operator develop and manage the new water sports hub for at least five years, which can be further extended for another five years.
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In lieu of the licence to operate and possession of the land, the operator will be charged a minimum licence fee of Rs 8 lakh per annum.
Besides water sports facilities, the private operator will be responsible for building a floating jetty, and security watch towers that would be manned by coastal police. The government has also said that the demarcation, protection and preservation of the mangrove forest along the coastal stretch would also be the operator’s responsibility.
“A buffer would have to be placed between the mangrove patch and the beach area,” states the MTDC’s Expression of Interest document, issued on May 20. Minimum facilities like temporary wooden benches and beach toilets would also have to be set up along the beach.
“The Collector’s office has agreed to grant MTDC advance possession of the land required for all these operations at a nominal cost. The selected operator will be allowed to possess this land during the licence period,” said Nainuttia.
The government has also agreed to grant “exclusivity” of the water sports activity to the selected bidder. “The EOI was floated only after getting all approvals. Locals too have been consulted,” said Nainuttia. But a section of locals have certain apprehensions. Rajesh Mangela, Resource Person, Maharashtra Machhimaar Kruti Samiti, said that the coastal area is reserved exclusively for fishing activity in the city’s development plan. Mangela, who resides in Moragaon, a fishermen village, in the locality, said, “Our fishermen’s society had earlier submitted a proposal to permit fishermen to operate a water sports facility. But the government did not respond to it.”
The government conditions make it mandatory for a private operator to hold a five year experience in water sports activities and a minimum income of Rs 35 lakh per annum to be eligible to bid for the project, which effectively rule out the possibility of local fisherfolk bagging it.
But Nainuttia said, “We would have no problem if the local fisherfolk tie up with an experienced partner and bid for the project.” The Airports Authority of India had in 2010 objected to one such proposal for setting up a water sports centre at Juhu beach citing “security” concerns.
But Nainuttia said all NOCs and permissions were already in place in the case of this beachfront. Water sports facilities are presently offered only along the Chota Chowpatty beach in South Mumbai. Nainuttia said the MTDC was also working on plans for developing the Juhu beach and the Girgaum Chowpatty into a water sports hub.