After eight long months of intense negotiations with various stakeholders of Sassoon Docks, a plan to redevelop one of Mumbai’s oldest and most famous waterfronts into a modern fishing village has been prepared.
The new design will include an air-conditioned fish market, a one-storey museum and a space for visitors to enjoy fishing, among other tourist activities. The draft plan comprises an amphitheater, a food street and a floor to view the Arabian Sea.
Plans to redesign the docks have been delayed mainly due to friction between fishermen groups. “One of the main problems is that there are fights between locals (of south Mumbai) and those who come from Versova, mostly to sell at Sassoon Docks,” said Sanjay Bhatia, Mumbai Port Trust chairman.
In order to resolve the issues at Sassoon Docks, a nine-member core committee was constituted by Bhatia. A majority of the committee comprise representatives from fishermen communities, who are in consensus to revive Sassoon Docks and make it more attractive to tourists.
“There are several issues that have been highlighted regarding various fishermen groups. There are facilities in Crawford market, Malad, Dadar and now also in Versova to sell fish in retail. Why should their fish mix with our fish?… All these ideas discussed are on paper and need to be institutionalised … today, there is a lot of dirt and muck at the docks, which the majority of us want to be cleaned,” said Suresh Dhanu, a member of the committee.
Bhatia said: “Nothing will move forward till the fishermen’s issues are addressed.”
According to the new draft plan, the clock tower arch entrance would continue to be the main entrance and would lead to a large circular museum that would exhibit several features of Sassoon Docks. The museum will be a new construction from where visitors can view the Arabian Sea from the first floor.
On the ground floor of the museum “authentic looking” figures dressed as fishermen who are fishing or Banjara women peeling or drying fish would be showcased.
Once a tourist approaches a particular figure, a door behind the model would lead the visitor to the real section where the same work can be seen at Sassoon Docks. “For instance, behind the Banjaras, a path would lead the tourists to another one-storey building where Banjaras will operate out of, as opposed to the current unhygienic set up where they work openly on the roads,” said an official.
There would be restoration of the main godown of the docks. Besides the roads being widened and paved, a waste management plan would be adopted to regulate the waste produced. “It is going to a be massive task (to revamp) because Sassoon Docks is dirty,” Bhatia said.
Officials said that a new three storey construction would come up near the main road of the docks that would rehabilitate those who were leased spaces by the Mumbai Port Trust and are affected by the revamp. “The revamps will do away with those garages at the docks’ entrance and all other establishments that don’t pay rent to the Mumbai Port Trust,” a senior official said.
Besides the design of Sassoon Docks, no decision has been taken with respect to marketing or financing the revamp project, officials clarified. “We are still exploring the tourism potential of Sassoon Docks without any additional floor space index added to the area or any disruption to the heritage and historic value of the docks,” said a senior official.
Among the several rounds of discussions, one of the points that came up was to create a day care for children of the Banjaras. “There are cases of child labour because the mothers who are peeling prawns and other fish are simultaneously monitoring their children while they are at work,” said Dhanu.