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Planning a new Mumbai
Gayatri Ramanathan | July 29, 2006
Architect Hafeez Contractor has a new dream for Mumbai. A new marine drive, stretching all the way from the Governor's garden to Bandra Fort. Contractor, known for his radical ideas, is not proposing a reclaimed stretch on which Mumbai's ultra rich can buy bigger and better homes.
Rather, he is proposing reclaiming land along this 17.6 km stretch to create an urban forest or parkland, where an ordinary Mumbaikar can come for a walk or enjoy a weekend picnic, without having to go out of the city.
"Today, there are no open spaces in the city. Even the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali is not fully open to the public. I am suggesting creating a new green space right in the heart of the city which is open to everybody, much like the Central Park in New York," says Contractor.
His idea: to reclaim land upto 500 metres from the shoreline along some of south Mumbai's posh areas along the west coast and convert it into forest land, which is open to everyone with walkways, plazas and recreational areas running alongside the forested patches. To create an additional green cover for the city of some 425 acres out of this reclaimed land.
Argues Contractor, "South Mumbai has a meagre green cover of just 160 acres on the mill lands. I am suggesting a way of creating additional green cover, without taking away land from anyone else."
An obvious reference to the old Charles Correa plan under which the mill owners were asked to surrender part of their land for maintaining the green cover in the city.
"This reclamation plan will not only give the city a better look but also change the micro climate of this part of the city. Temperatures will come down by at least a degree because of the new forest, the air will be cleaner, and people will have place where they can walk. There are no open spaces in the city and this will create that much-needed open space. And most important, Mumbai will get a completely new image which, in turn, will attract further investment into the city," he says.
His plan also suggests ways of beautifying existing landmarks such as Pedder Road, Mahalakshmi temple precinct, Haji Ali and Shivaji Park. It suggests ways of preserving the few existing historical landmarks such as the Worli and the Bandra forts and opening them to the public. In addition, it even incorporates the Bandra-Worli sealink, which is under construction.
"And add to this a ring road which goes right around the city and you can actually free up a lot of road space in the city. Most of the inner city traffic in Mumbai is actually north-south traffic. It moves through the city as there is no other way and chokes up the inner city roads. Once you have a ring road, around 80 per cent of this traffic will move on that road. Imagine how much more space you will have on the city roads then!" says Contractor.Contractor's plan was getting a serious look-in from the last Sena-BJP government with former minister Nitin Gadkari looking into it. He laments that the present Congress government has shown little interest in the plan. "I haven't lost hope. I am planning to make a presentation to the chief minister soon," says the architect.