During her election campaign, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Mumbai South constituency, Meera Sanyal, has called for freeing up the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) land for the ‘much needed infrastructure to revitalise the city’. Her rival candidates, however, have said her solutions for open spaces were not practical.
Open spaces in South Mumbai have remained a key point of focus for candidates. The island city has the least number of open space for public. While the Western and Eastern suburbs have 1,243 hectares and 1,067 hectares of open space, respectively, the island city has 658 hectares of open space, states the 1991 Development Plan.
Last week, Sanyal introduced an online petition, which will be sent to the prime minister for consideration, on receiving 30,000 signatures. So far, 400 supporters have signed the petition, which primarily focuses on the 1.2 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) container terminal being developed at present at the MbPT.
Sanyal said, “The container will lead to traffic congestion, and has taken away the scope of opening up space for people.” She claimed a 1980 directive of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi called for the port trust land to be returned to citizens.
However, Congress workers and Shiv Sena’s candidate Arvind Sawant claimed that the proposal to utilise 312 hectares of port land for marina and parks was misconceived.
“I had first raised the issue of MbPT. Sanyal just played it up after I expressed concern over the current affairs of the port land. However, her suggestion to open up the MbPT space is not practical. We need that land to run port business. After dredging is done, the operation at MpBT will gain momentum, thus, increasing employment opportunities. If we open up this space to public, revenue and employment will be killed,” said Sawant.
He added that when the two offshore container berths become fully functional, there will be no significant impact on traffic in the city. “There is a separate road and railway track to transport goods. Normal city traffic will not be hampered,” he added.
According to a senior MbPT official, of over-700 hectares of MbPT land, at present one-third port land is under direct operations, another one-third is used for road transport and the remaining land is under real estate. “There is only little land which can be used for open space. To open up 312 hectares, we will have to shut down half of the port,” the official said.
Milind Deora, sitting MP in South Mumbai and Minister of Shipping, said, “I opposed the container plan in 2007 and raised questions over the feasibility of the project in the Parliament. The committee formed under MbPT, however, approved the project after finding it feasible.”
Contradicting Sanyal’s proposal to open the MbPT land, Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have instead stressed on cluster redevelopment to create a provision for open space.