The Maharashtra government has revived a plan to develop the eastern seaboard, with a whopping 500 hectares of land awaiting development. So far, the western seafront is available to residential and transport needs of the city, while the eastern one is tied up for harbour and port activities, many of which have shifted to the new Jawaharlal Nehru Port Terminal (JNPT).
A detailed plan for development is likely to be put up for clearance to the state government and the Ministry of Shipping, which controls most of these port lands through the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT). Under discussion since 2000, real action on the plan started only a couple of years ago after major container traffic shifted across the bay, to JNPT.
When Maharashtra appointed MbPT as the special planning authority (SPA) for the 966.3 hectare stretch between Sasoon Docks on the southern tip of Mumbai and Wadala on the east earlier this year, its chairman Sanjay Bhatia had said a master development plan for the Eastern Waterfront had been prepared, with a detailed one to follow.
This is now ready and is likely to be submitted within weeks to the state government, reliable sources said. The new plan includes ‘repurposing’ port lands and integrating them with the city’s needs, including public spaces and facilities for public use. Tourism too will see a thrust, being a huge employment generating sector, says Yashodhan Vange, deputy chairman, MbPT, The MbPT has already put in motion the development of a new domestic cruise terminal and the renewal of a heritage building. Work on the international cruise terminal too is in full swing. “The port gave the necessary fillip for Mumbai to emerge as the economic capital of India. The same thing would be done in a new context by developing it into a world class tourism port,” Vange said.
Tourist and recreational activities on the seafront will include a London-type Mumbai Eye, an amphitheatre, seafront, floating restaurants and a marina. Cruises and ropeway connection to Elephanta Caves, and a Ro-Pax service from Mumbai to Alibaug across the harbor are also planned, with the project preserving heritage structures like the Kanhoji Angre Island at Sewri, Ghadiyal Godi (Clock Tower) and the environmentally sensitive mudflats and mangroves that attract flamingos.
While many activities have shifted to JNPT, MbPT still has around 8,000 employees and pension overheads of around Rs 2,500 crore. To balance this ‘sinking’ capital while developing the eastern waterfront, MbPT is planning to lease out some land to PSUs like the Mazgaon Docks, Bharat Petroleum and the Hindustan Petroleum. In the process, it expects to raise funds worth Rs 3,000 crore to fund activities. It is also likely to reclaim some land along the coast to develop a city garden along the lines of Hyde Park, London, with earth excavated for the underground Metro line used for reclamation activity. The ministry of shipping is also working on a waterway connection to the new Navi Mumbai International Airport.
Mumbai, a massive megalopolis starved of common recreational spaces, missed the bus with planners and government prioritising offices, malls, hotels, and multi-storeyed parking lots over the last two decades. Freed up land in central Mumbai, when the old cotton mills closed, was used as expensive real estate rather than for space and recreation needs of the common people. Hopefully this imbalance will now be corrected.