'Tenders for MbPT land development project consultant in 10 days'

Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) chairman Sanjay Bhatia on Monday said a global tender will be floated in 10 days to appoint a project management and implementation consultant, who will create a master-plan for the proposed port-land development at the country's oldest harbour.

Creating basic infrastructure will take two to four years, he said, adding the final action plan will draw from the numerous committee reports which have been presented till now by a slew of stakeholders, including citizen groups, industry lobbies, etc.

"Till now, the plans that have been made are general. We do not have a detailed master-plan enlisting where to build a road, a marina or a restaurant. I need to appoint a consultant for that," Bhatia, who took over as the chairman recently, said.

"We are not here to make another study report, we will be appointing a project management and implementation consultant who prepares a master-plan, and implements it," Bhatia said, adding he would also like to have Cidco as a special advisor.

He said a project management and implementation consultant helped with the developmental projects he had undertaken as Cidco managing director in Navi Mumbai, and added "tender for a project management and implementation consultant for the portland development will be floated in 10 days."

Stating that the suggestions for the land use include public utilities, urban transport, waterfront activities and seaside development like hotels, Bhatia said there are a slew of challenges for the implementation.

Specifically, suggestions include gardens, playgrounds, cycling tracks, walkways, marinas, floating restaurants, metro rai, a Burj-Khalifa like hotel etc.

After central Mumbai's mill land, the release of MbPT's excess land on the eastern waterfront is seen as a bonanza for the space-starved megapolis.

Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari had tried to assuage concerns earlier, saying it will be used for public good and not for the benefit of realty developers.

Bhatia said 1,000 acres of the overall 1,800 acre land of the MbPT is available for development, but this is not contiguous. There are various agencies both at the Central and the state levels which deal with various facets, making coordination a key challenge, he added.

Giving out time-lines, Bhatia said the preparatory work will take up to four months, and the plan should get completed in six months. This will be followed by the development of the infrastructure which shall take between two and four years. He said a high-level coordination committee with the Union shipping secretary as the chairman and co-chaired by the state chief secretary will be formed.

For finances, he said MbPT will look at raising money through leasing out part of the land to fund public infrastructure. To start with, there are at least 40 vacant plots which could be leased out to generate the cash, he said.

Bhatia, however, made it clear that getting funds either from loans, or from some non-governmental organisations or corporate largesse is not a solution for the needs. He said a big chunk of the free land is stuck in encroachments by slums and also in litigation as people have
opposed MbPT's decision not to extend leases.

The chairman made it clear that MbPT will not be extending any leases, except those where it does not plan any development like the Apollo Bunder area which houses the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel.

With many reports recommending transfer of land to a special purpose vehicle or SPV to carry out the development, Bhatia said in the face of so much litigation, the trust cannot form the SPV for at least three-four years. In the absence of an SPV, it will be creating a special department of portland development internally to undertake the function.

The MbPT will strengthen its legal team given all the challenges on that front it is facing, and will also undergo an organisational changes to make it possible to work under the current system, he said. There is also a need for changing the land use system as the existing laws provide for usage of the land for only port-related activities, he added.

Bhatia said the MbPT should be given the status of a special planning authority on the lines of the Cidco for carrying out such a task, but said the Union shipping ministry will have to be convinced about this. Marking cruise shipping as a focus area, Bhatia said it has been decided to prioritise the passenger berth in the port for hosting such cruise ships rather than for the cargo.

Cargo movements will be limited to the offshore container terminal and the Indira Dock, he said.

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