SOCIAL SANCHAR WITH Shri. Sanjay Bhatia, IAS ON 20th February 2019

February 20, 2019 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Eastern Waterfront
Royal Bombay Yacht Club
Anchorage Hall, Apollo Bunder, Gateway of India
Mumbai – 400001

With the redevelopment of Mumbai’s Eastern Waterfront at the top of everyone’s minds, V Citizen Action Network organised a Social Sanchar on 20th February, 2019 at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, Apollo Bunder, aimed at illuminating people’s thought processes, building awareness and giving everyone a platform to interact with the government regarding the proposed developments. The speaker for the occasion was Shri. Sanjay Bhatia, IAS, Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), who is spearheading the project himself.

Mrs. Indrani Malkani, Chairman VCAN, began the programme by welcoming the audience and briefly introducing the topic, as well as thanking VCAN’s many partners and collaborators. Mr V. Ranganathan, Trustee, VCAN, and a former Chief Secretary of Maharashtra and Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai, then introduced Shri. Sanjay Bhatia.

A Mechanical Engineer and an MBA from Southern Cross University, Australia, Shri. Sanjay Bhatia is a Maharashtra Cadre IAS Officer in the rank of Secretary, Government of India, with 33 years’ experience in serving at various senior levels in Government of India and Government of Maharashtra.

He has held a number of important portfolios like Vice Chairman & Managing Director, CIDCO (Development of New towns, Airport, METRO); Commissioner, Sales Tax; Chairman, Maharashtra State Electricity Board; and is currently Chairman Mumbai Port Trust and is also the Chairman of Indian Ports Association, an Apex Body of Major Ports under Administrative Control of Ministry Shipping.

Shri Bhatia has been awarded a number of awards likelike ‘Ananya’ Award for Fighting against corruption, E-Governance Awards, Rajiv Gandhi Gatiman Prashashan and Maha Shilpkar Award.

He is also a preceptor of Heartfulness (Sahaj Marg) Meditation, having practiced meditation for the last seventeen years.

Shri. Bhatia’s presentation began with an overview of the Port, as well as the aims and mission of the redevelopment project. Before beginning, he assured the audience that while they had received more than nine hundred suggestions and objections to their plans, they were in no hurry and would scrutinise and address every one of them.

He informed the audience that Mumbai has the second oldest port in the country, after Kolkata, and that it continues to be placed fourth in their cargo profile. Handling 62 million tonnes of cargo including 2 lakh vehicles made in Maharashtra for exporting, and the importation of steel, pulses, and sugar, the Mumbai port remains an integral part of Maharashtra’s economy.

Thriving as it is, the Mumbai Port Trust aims to increase its importance and relevance to modern day Mumbai. Inspired by some of the major ports worldwide, the MbPT plans to incorporate cruises and sea tourism into the daily activity of the port. Although this may lead to a reduction of the cargo profile of the port, cargo activities will still continue.

In consultation with various internationally acclaimed cruise-line developers and advisors, the MbPT has drawn up a list of 25 steps to expanding Mumbai ports cruise-line industry, and expects to receive nearly 300 cruise ships by next year. With the reconstruction and improvement of the international and domestic cruise terminal, this boost to the tourism industry is likely to increase employment opportunities.

Another prospect of the improved port is the importation of goods needed in Mumbai through this port rather than via truck from JNPT, which would reduce traffic in Thane and Navi Mumbai. By providing godown spaces in Mumbai, cargo can come in from JNPT through the new sea route.

Land is to be freed up in the Eastern waterfront by reclaiming coal and ship breaking industries which have expired leases in the area. Not only will this reclamation contribute to more public space, but will help reduce pollution in the city. Out of the 911 hectares of land under the MBPT’s Special Planning Authority, 282 hectares can be utilised for the project, including areas such as Cotton Greens and Sewri. Any land to be taken will ensure that the residents and businesses will be rehabilitated elsewhere.

Rather reassuringly, 207 hectares of this land is allocated for projects such as garden spaces, roads, and tourism sites. Around 59 hectares is to go to the building of residential and commercial spaces (mainly government offices), and the remaining to a mangrove park and a ropeway to Elephanta Caves. The safety of the environment is a priority for the project planners, and sewage treatment plants have been initiated in order to protect the environment.

To address concerns regarding siltation resulting from the reclamation of the land, Mr. Bhatia reassures that several studies have been conducted to ensure that the area to be reclaimed is safe from the dangers of siltation. Many people believe that the project should look towards building affordable housing in the eastern waterfront area, and although the main aim of the project allows for the creation of various open garden spaces, the MbPT has taken note of concerns and pledged to shift 20,000 slums in the area to housing near the Wadala end.

A museum district and health district with specialised hospital are also planned. Finally, the transport network near the area is to be made more convenient, with the MMRDA planning a metro line and the provision of an elevated corridor from the railways. Ro Pax projects and other ferries also promise to improve commute around the area.

After summarising the plan, Mr. Bhatia addressed some concerns that audience members had.

To queries on the differences between the Port Trust’s Plan and the Report of the Rani Jadhav Committee, Shri. Bhatia mentioned that they had only taken a few points from the Rani Jadhav Committee’s report, as among other things, the Committee had envisaged completely shutting down the Port’s operations which was not going to happen.

He assured the MbPT’s commitment to conservation with the preservation of heritage buildings such as a Ballard Estate which are within the area even for planning. The Prince’s Dock land is to go towards the building of a marina with a capacity for many small boats, and the building of restaurants to increase the appeal of the area. In response to a question about encouraging cycling, he said that there would be a large network of cycling tracks around the proposed promenade.

Mr. Bhatia also stated that due a limitation of the marina’s capacity, another marina was being developed in Mandwa, as its construction near any other area would have risked siltation. One concern to come up was the lack of a definition for Ro Pax services in the Marine laws leading to possible confusion in the entrance of businesses into the Ro Pax industry.

To a question about the relocation of people who had workshops and factories in the affected areas, he replied that while they would be relocated, they would be given a smaller area. He also cautioned that polluting activities like shipbreaking and heavy industry would no longer be permitted. Mr. Bhatia also assured the audience that they would coordinate with a joint committee including BMC and the MMRDA to define Ro Pax for a smooth flow of business.

With this, the interaction was concluded, and the audiences’ fears allayed. With a comprehensive plan to increase tourism already underway, the creation of various public spaces, and a strong commitment to environmental protection and preservation, the redevelopment of Mumbai’s eastern waterfront promises to be an ambitious and exciting new prospect for Mumbai city.

Mrs. Malkani concluded the programme by presenting a memento to Shri. Sanjay Bhatia on behalf of VCAN. The President and the Commodore of the Royal Bombay Yacht Club also presented Shri Bhatia with mementos on behalf of the Club. An official photograph was then taken, and the audience was invited for some light refreshments.

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To view the video of the event, click here.