Over 1,000 acres along Eastern Mumbai; that is the amount of land that the Mumbai Port Trust plans to throw open for development. From open spaces, to amenities to even affordable housing – a lot is possible here. But tenant issues and land acquisition problems may just derail the project.
Mumbai Port Trust Land: A Real Estate Goldmine
Mumbai is filled to the brim. People live cheek to cheek, land is scarce and there is hardly any space for recreation. But all that is set to change with the government focused on developing over 1,000 acres of land belonging to the Mumbai Port Trust.
“There are approximately 1,800 acres of land here and its commercial value is over 75,000 Crore rupees. We have setup a committee to evaluate how best to develop this land for the benefit of Mumbai’s citizens and how best to tackle the problems of land development.” said Union Minister for Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping – Nitin Gadkari, as he announced the plan.
The government’s ambitious plans will be heavily tilted towards commercial and infrastructural development. Some of the proposals include building an international cruise terminal, public utilities like garden and heritage tourism spots, water front activities like marinas and floating restaurants and even seaside marvels similar to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai along with other real estate development. With the Western seaboard nearly tapped out, this land is a real estate gold mine.
“This Mumbai port trust land is in South Mumbai and will range from Colaba, to Wadala and even Vasai and beyond. I would definitely consider it the most prime land in Mumbai real estate and if it is opened for development, it will attract a lot of interest.” says Gulam Zia, executive director of Knight Frank India
Tenants Issues Threaten To Derail Development
While the benefits are clear to see, there is a major problem that may just derail the government’s plans. These lands are home to thousands of tenants including businesses and residential colonies and both groups are fighting to keep their land.
“They are serving eviction notices on various buildings left and right, whose leases are set to expire. This will render lakhs of people homeless.” says Manu Bhavnani, a Mumbai port trust tenant.
While the Port Trust claims that these tenants have not paid their leases and so should be evicted, the tenants counter this by claiming that they have been paying market rates for their properties and that the Port Trust was refusing to allow them to extend their lease. Further complicating matters is a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that asks the Port Trust to allow the tenants to stay on.
“All that we are requesting the government is to please renew our lease, please follow the diktat of the supreme court of 2004 which is very clear to what the Mumbai Port Trust should do.” Says Minoo Pardiwala, president of the Bombay Presidency Radio Club and Mumbai port trust tenant
Experts Ask Government To Take Balanced Approach
These tenants have now started online campaigns to push the government to reconsider the move. The matter has also taken political tones with various parties supporting the tenants.
“We had initiated this plan during our government and we had made plans to allow these tenants to stay on. If the government decides to go ahead without involving the tenants, there will be delays to the project which will not be in the best interests of either the port trust or the tenants.” says Milind Deora, former minister of state for shipping.
With pressure mounting, experts say that it is likely that some sort of compromise will be reached which will allow the tenants to stay. But even after that matter is settled, experts are worried that lobbying by private developers will see the Mumbai port trust lands may meet the same fate as the Lower Parel Mill lands, with high-rises taking the place of the public amenities and affordable housing stock that were promised.
“A lot of builders are eyeing the project and care must be taken to ensure that what happened with the mill lands don’t happen here. The government should try to develop one area at a time rather than developing all 1,000 acres at once, which will take 50 years or more to complete.” advises Meera Sanyal, Chairperson of the Urban Development Committee of the Indian Merchants Chamber
When NDTV got in touch with Sanjay Bhatia, the chairman of the Mumbai Port Trust, he indicated that a solution was being worked out and that the masterplan for the development of the port would be out soon. As things stand, the Mumbai port trust lands are a tremendous opportunity but only if the government is able to tackle these tenant issues and ensure that the land is not misused like the lower Parel mill-lands were.
Nikhil Narayan Sivadas, Assistant Editor, NDTV