Mumbai plans ahead
City planners are pushing to get several hundred acres of land for use, for low-cost housing, gardens and recreational spaces in a concept plan. They intend to accomplish this by utilising land of the Bombay Port Trust (BPT) and large industries like the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers at Chembur. According to senior government sources, now that a concept plan is being readied for the next 40 years, it is time that the BPT land is used. “The RCF, a large polluting industry, was set up on the outskirts of the city in 1961. But it is now time to relocate it to a rural area and use the land for low-cost housing as well as for garden spaces. The city should have service-oriented establishments and not huge industrial complexes.’’ The state government’s planning agency for the city—the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority(MMRDA)—had recently appointed a Singapore firm to chalk out the concept plan.”We have held discussions on this issue and under the broad framework, land should be utilised to promote holistic growth in the city. We have put up the issue before top officials of both the state and central governments as many large institutions like the BPT and RCF are centrally controlled.’’ The BPT is the city’s largest landlord with 46.30 hectares of land under its control and has a 135-year-old tradition. City planners and citizens’ groups have been talking of putting up the BPT land for public use for over a decade, but all attempts have been in vain. BPT chairman Rahul Asthana said he is opposed to such a move as over 50 million tonnes of cargo go through the port. According to government sources, with the development of the JNPT port and other smaller ports in the region, there is no need for Mumbai port to expand. Instead, its land can be used to address more pressing concerns of residents. Chairman of Bombay First, Narinder Nayar, who is on the empowered committee of the state government has been pushing for using land to keep the city green.”We have been asking the government not to allow the BPT to expand. Instead, its space should be used for recreational purposes and to create green areas,’’ he said. According to BPT officials, all the promises made by the state government to use port land for green spaces are unreliable.” Look what happened to the mills in Parel, how much of the space is going to be used for green areas or low-cost housing?,’’ they said.