Senior Congress leader Milind Deora on Sunday said that Mumbai Port Trust’s (MbPT) plans to redevelop the eastern waterfront of the metropolis amounted to squandering an opportunity to rejuvenate and transform the city.
He said the development plans mooted by the MbPT were “disconnected” from the city’s interests and did not pay adequate attention to its need for open spaces.
The former South Mumbai Lok Sabha MP said it would be “catastrophic” if the port trust is allowed to do “as it pleases” with its land.
“When I assumed charge as the Minister of State for Shipping and Ports in the UPA government, we looked at creating a holistic policy for these three ports (Mumbai, Kolkata and Kandla) that would grant freedom to the port trusts to develop these lands in a way that served the interests not only of residential and commercial tenants, but also the city,” Deora said.
“Unfortunately, change in the Central government (NDA taking over in 2014) meant we couldn’t implement this policy. The current government introduced a new policy that actually encouraged the three ports to function as purely commercial entities, entirely disconnected from the needs and interests of the cities they belong to,” he claimed.
He called city planning a balancing act and said it must necessarily incorporate various competing interests to make the area an inclusive one.
The new plan of the government threatens to make MpBT land and its development a replica of what happened to mill lands in the city, he said.
The city lost a massive opportunity to provide open spaces and affordable housing to its citizens during the time when mills lands were developed, he claimed.
With mill lands, it was competing interests of mill owners versus the government, he said, adding that the former were the primary beneficiaries and Mumbai was left with scarcely any recreational or open spaces, he said.
He said he had raised the MbPT land issue in Parliament in 2007 and a committee was set up under then Union Minister of Shipping T R Baalu, with Maharashtra chief secretary, MbPT chairman and other stakeholders as members, to find solutions to the various issues confronting port trust land.
“Why can’t Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Minister of Shipping Nitin Gadkari, both of whom possess deep understanding of the issues facing Mumbai, chalk out a solution that benefits all stakeholders the tenants, the city and the port trust?” he asked.