REVIVING the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government’s plan of opening up vast stretches of Mumbai’s eastern sea-front, locked under the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) for years, the organisation has decided to set up a separate department, engaging urban planners, to steer the plan.
The department, to be titled Portland & Township Development department, will be the nodal point for preparing a master plan for the development of land under MbPT and implementing the various urban infrastructure projects proposed in it.
A senior MbPT official said, “There are several reports submitted by various organisations about how MbPT land can be unlocked and developed for public use, including the Rani Jadhav committee report. But these do not talk about micro-planning for the land. We will scrutinise all these reports and take the best ideas, along with detailed planning for implementation in the master plan.”
A panel under Rani Jadhav, former chairperson of the MbPT, had in December 2014 submitted recommendations to the Union shipping ministry on how to free up land owned by the agency for public housing, recreational purposes and for transportation. The report was to be made public in order to invite suggestions and objections. However, one-and-a-half years later, the Union government is still to make the report public.
The MbPT is the custodian of 1,800 acres of land covering 28 kilometres of the eastern coastline of Mumbai from Wadala to Colaba. The Rani Jadhav report had recommended streamlining port operations, shutting down some of the polluting and loss-making activities, and open up 60 per cent of the total land for public use. Senior MbPT officials said the organisation’s intention is to keep land under core port operations intact and work out how the rest could be used for creating public infrastructure, roads, marinas and so on. “We will plan development only where it is feasible. We will also consider raising funds from the land itself by exploring the possibility of offices, cafes and restaurants to build up finances for creating public infrastructure,” said the MbPT official.
The MbPT has leased out about 36 per cent of the 1,800 acres to public and private entities, and the organisation will rework some of the leases after micro-planning its land’s development.
Having decided to constitute a separate department for this land’s development, the MbPT is now looking for an advisor, a senior urban planner, to supervise the drafting of the new master plan, including urban economic rejuvenation and waterfront development.
The planner, who would be initially appointed for a year with his term extendable by one year at a time at the MbPT’s discretion, will advise the organisation on various township development projects and its components, coordinate with consultants and systemise the project cost.
Before deciding to formulate a new department, the MbPT had consulted activists and urban planners, who had worked on and given substantial inputs on developing port land in the past. Sulakshana Mahajan, an urban planner with the Maharashtra Transformation Support Unit, a state government-sponsored think-tank, said, “Most planners had advised on setting up a new authority for port land development, which was also a suggestion in the Rani Jadhav panel report. We had also suggested that the authority have participation from the state government and representatives of the civic body so as to holistically plan, taking all the city’s stakeholders into consideration. However, there were some legal hurdles in setting up an authority.”