Here's what state govt wants to do at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Jun 11, 2014, 06:49 IST | Sharad Vyas

Mumbai's green lung to make way for buzzing choppers, as Maharashtra government tells BMC to hand over its portion of Mahalaxmi Racecourse so that a VVIP heliport can be built there

Pressing ahead with its plans to construct an allweather, day- night heliport at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse, the Maharashtra government is gearing up to take over the portions of green land owned by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

Also read: Aaditya Thackeray opposes the idea of CM's heliport plan on Facebook

The Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), the state nodal agency entrusted with the task of developing airports, has written to the civic body demanding it be handed over the corporation’s share in the racecourse land to help complete the project, which aims to facilitate VVIP movement in and around south Mumbai.

Graphic/ Amit Bandre

The MADC has directed corporation to immediately start the transfer formalities, and make changes to the development control rules for the same. Once that is done, changes will also be made to the property card of the racecourse, which currently shows the government and BMC as joint owners. “We have written to them asking for handover of the nearly 20% of the land under the BMC’s control,” said a senior official from MADC.

Shiv Sena  youth wing chief Aaditya Thackeray has called the move to contruct the heliport at the racecourse ‘anti-people and anti-Mumbai’. File pic
Shiv Sena  youth wing chief Aaditya Thackeray has called the move to contruct the heliport at the racecourse ‘anti-people and anti-Mumbai’. File pic

The project
The MADC needs a total of 80,000 sq m or roughly 19 acres of the total 222- acre racecourse to construct the facility. The mini airport will require this land for an approach road beginning at the Haji Ali end, a fire station, two single- storey rest rooms for the VVIP, four berths for the aircraft, and a 600- metre long landing strip, which will be constructed right in the middle of the ground.

This plan has already faced opposition from various quarters, including members of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) and even the Shiv Sena, which has opposed government plans to occupy the biggest green lung of the city.

Aaditya Thackeray, president of Shiv Sena’s youth wing, has been quite vocal on the issue. Speaking to mid- day , he said, “I think more than BMC land or state land, the land belongs to Mumbai and each and every Mumbaikar. Hence, we’ve proposed the Mumbai Park. I wonder why the state government, which has so many files pending on development projects, is keen on snatching Mumbai’s prime green space. For us, Mumbaikars are VIPs. Helicopters can land at Raj Bhavan or naval bases: both close to where VIPs are put up or have work.” “The government hasn’t given security to Juhu aerodrome, and is snatching the racecourse. This step is antipeople and anti- Mumbai and we will not let the government take an anti- Mumbai step. The government and chief minister need to come clean and explain why they are stealing Mumbai’s land under the pretext of VIP heliports,” he added, Sources said the MADC has estimated that the project will cost around Rs 42 crore, of which Rs 3 crore will be spent on the night- landing facility. But, after some people pointed out that the estimate seemed too high, it is being revised now.

“We are drawing fresh estimates for the project, as the current cost appears to be too high. The revised proposal will be presented before the chief minister at the end of this month,” said a senior official.

Priya Dutt doesn’t ‘like’ heliport
mid-day had reported on June 2 that Aaditya Thackeray had put up a Facebook post opposing the state’s plan to construct a heliport at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse. Congress’s former MP Priya Dutt had liked the status and also commented on the post, offering her support.

“We are with you; Mumbai needs every open space to be preserved,” she had said. Asked if this was not going against her own party’s chief minister, Dutt had told mid-day , “This is not about parties or government. It is about saving open spaces in our city, and, as a citizen, I am for that.”

Rs 42 crore: Estimated cost of building the all-weather, 24-hour heliport

Rs 3 crore: Amount to be invested in building night landing facility

222 acres: Total area of the Mahalaxmi Racecourse

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