New plan looks at port-ability of green spaces
In a major victory in the city’s fight for open spaces, the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has revised its allocation for open spaces in the eastern waterfront area, reserving for gardens and open...
In a major victory in the city’s fight for open spaces, the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has revised its allocation for open spaces in the eastern waterfront area, reserving for gardens and open spaces 82.36 hectares (ha) or 32.47% of the 253.6ha available for development.
It has also revised its vision for development of the east coast, stressing on “improving quality of life for Mumbaiites”, a goal which was missing in its earlier draft. The revised plan was submitted to the Maharashtra government’s town planning department on January 31.
The eastern coast is spread across 966ha from Wadala to Colaba. In the revised plan, MbPT has stated that only 253.62ha will be opened up for development, of which 190ha will be reserved for roads, public spaces, amenities and tourism. The revised plan also looks to create an 11-km promenade, a non-motorised space for pedestrians, compared to the 7-km one mentioned in the earlier plan. Mumbai’s iconic Marine Drive promenade is 3.5km in length.
MbPT, in its original plan which was released in December 2018, had planned to open up the entire area for development, reserving 261ha for open spaces and gardens. But the allocation came with several contentious riders. Of the 261ha, 93ha was to be reclaimed for a 145-ha central garden near Haji Bunder and 52ha was reserved for layout open spaces, effectively leaving 74ha or 7.6% of the total area for open spaces.
HT, through a series of reports, had pointed out the ambiguities in the original plan, which urban experts said could result in misuse. It had also highlighted how a 2014 committee appointed by the Central government had stated that 30% of the existing area for development should be reserved for open spaces. MbPT received close to 920 objections on the plan. It received major flak for giving prominence to “commercial development” instead of rejuvenating the city’s green space.
NR Shende, director, directorate of town planning and valuation, Maharashtra government, said, “We have received the revised master plan. We are scrutinising it, after which it will be submitted to the urban development department of the state.”
While MbPT’s new plan also accounts for a reclaimed central garden, the proposal states it is not a part of the 32.47% allocation for open spaces. It has stated that the 145-ha central garden (of which 93ha are to be reclaimed), is subject to clearances from the Union ministry of environment. “The first plan was not clear on objectives. So we took all objections into account and specified the development in each zone in the revised plan,” an official from MbPT, who did not wish to be named, said.
MbPT has also also re-looked at the “vision” for development of the city’s east coast. The new vision states: “It focuses on establishing Mumbai as a cruise tourism capital of the country, Taking up projects towards improvement of life of Mumbaikars and value addition and employment generation in Mumbai’s economy by developing an exemplary hi-tech city based on principles of sustainability and a futuristic and transparent development model, replete with state-of-the-art features.”
Urban planners and experts had severely criticised the objectives stated by MbPT in the original plan, which included “unlocking commercial value of the land and assets” and “to create a flexible plan to address the changing demand of the market.” Planners had also said that these objectives must not be part of a plan made by a government body.
The new plan also proposes flood-control measures, which were not in the earlier draft. It looks at transit-oriented development along the Metro line 11 (Wadala-South Mumbai) and strengthening last-mile connectivity. Hussain Indorewala, assistant professor of Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture, said, “It is good to improve the allocation for open spaces, however, one must look at the fine print to see if these are gardens with open access, no fee and not attached to larger institutions.”