Mumbai’s dock­lands of­fer air of open­ness

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT INTERNATIONAL - Tommy Wilkes Mumbai

THE RE­DE­VEL­OP­MENT of Mumbai’s mostly derelict dock­lands will, if a gov­ern­men­tap­pointed panel has its way, cre­ate a water­front where peo­ple liv­ing in the sec­ond-most densely pop­u­lated city can go to lift their spir­its, and the rich can go to play.

“This is a real op­por­tu­nity to give Mumbai what it doesn’t have, to give it open space,” said Narinder Nayar, a busi­ness­man who sits on the panel, whose rec­om­men­da­tions will be un­veiled this week.

Owned by Mumbai Port Trust much of the 7km2 up for re­de­vel­op­ment is oc­cu­pied to­day by crum­bling ware­houses, in­for­mal hous­ing and work­ers who eke out a liv­ing break­ing down dis­used ships or sort­ing through scrap metal.

The gov­ern­ment, which has val­ued the land at $12 bil­lion (R133bn), is pitch­ing the project as an ex­am­ple of what ur­ban re­gen­er­a­tion should look like: Trans­port Min­is­ter Nitin Gad­kari wants a gi­ant fer­ris wheel sim­i­lar to the London Eye.

“We should be look­ing to­wards the ex­am­ples of New York, London, Syd­ney… Barcelona as well, to see what can be done with our for­mer in­dus­trial ar­eas on the wa­ter- front,” Nayar said.

Whereas Mumbai’s western shore­line looks out to the Ara­bian Sea, this land is lo­cated on the pro­tected east­ern side of the city’s south­ern tip, af­ford­ing a view across the har­bour to the main­land, where a new deepsea con­tainer port is based.

Nayar says the panel will rec­om­mend that about 30 per­cent of the land be opened as pub­lic space, and the con­struc­tion of a hos­pi­tal and af­ford­able hous­ing, linked by new train lines.

There are plans for a float­ing ho­tel and con­ven­tion cen­tre, and a ten­der is out to build a lux­ury ma­rina to cater for the city’s su­per-rich.

With its nat­u­ral har­bour, Bom­bay, as it was called back then, was de­vel­oped dur­ing Bri­tish colo­nial times, and much of to­day’s city sits on re­claimed land that joined up a string of tiny is­lands off In­dia’s western coast.

Mumbai hasn’t got a great track record for ur­ban plan­ning, how­ever.

Mount­ing de­mo­graphic pres­sures and de­lays for in­fra­struc­ture projects have of­ten meant that what­ever progress takes place has al­ready been over­taken by the pop­u­la­tion’s grow­ing needs.

“You can re­ally feel the pres­sure this land must be un­der from de­vel­op­ers,” said Aneerudha Paul, a Mumbai-based ar­chi­tect, star­ing up at new flat blocks tow­er­ing over the empty ware­houses lin­ing the docks.

There are some 12.5 mil­lion peo­ple crammed on the “is­land city”, a wedge of land jut­ting into the sea, and around 21 mil­lion in the greater met­ro­pol­i­tan area. Half of them live in slums, and ac­cord­ing to a 2012 study, there is just 1.1m2 of open space for each res­i­dent. This is less than the 15m2 avail­able in Delhi and the 31m2 in London.

Res­i­dents and ur­ban ex­perts worry that the Mumbai port project will ei­ther fail to get off the ground, or suc­cumb to the same un­reg­u­lated build­ing sprees seen across the coun­try. – Reuters

PHOTO: REUTERS

Much of the dock­lands up for re­de­vel­op­ment is oc­cu­pied by empty ware­houses, in­for­mal hous­ing and work­ers dis­man­tling ships. A water­front is on the cards for an up­lift­ing, play­ful area.

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