A city and its builder

Print edition : December 19, 2003

Navi Mumbai, the alternative city created on the mainland to decongest Mumbai, has begun to attract businesses and families, and its builder, CIDCO, has recorded remarkable growth.

THE most ambitious plan to decongest Mumbai was the one to create Navi Mumbai (New Mumbai), an alternative urban settlement on the mainland that would remain accessible to the island city. Conceived in the 1970s, Navi Mumbai was seen as the answer to many of Mumbai's problems. This was to be a city that would contain all that Mumbai offered but would be clean, orderly, efficient and well-planned. The plan was to motivate businesses in Mumbai, which were finding it increasingly difficult to expand, to move to this 21st century city. The expectation was that Mumbai, which was bursting at its seams, would get decongested and concentrate on redeveloping itself. Unfortunately, the incentives to move just did not add up enough for the businesses to relocate. Mumbai has a charm like no other city.

The Palm Beach expressway developed by CIDCO in Navi Mumbai.-

For many years after it was created, Navi Mumbai wore a somewhat desolate look. The huge chrome and stone suburban railway stations, which were designed to cater to the well-heeled corporate crowd, were barely used. And the broad roads and high-tech buildings started looking a little run down. But with the construction of residential complexes, Navi Mumbai has now come alive and has begun to draw a significant amount of interest from the very people that once shunned it.

The City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Limited (CIDCO) is singularly responsible for Navi Mumbai's success. CIDCO was formed with the aim of creating a counter-magnet to Mumbai. And that is exactly what it is in the process of accomplishing. To begin with, the Government of Maharashtra acquired 344 square kilometres of land on the mainland across Thane Creek and handed it over to CIDCO to create 14 nodes. Indicative of CIDCO's success in the venture is the fact that from a body with an initial subscribed capital of Rs.3.95 crores it has grown to one with a staggering Rs.600 crores-plus annual turnover. Its total investment in city building projects today is to the tune of Rs.7,972 crores.

Vinay Mohan Lal, Chairman of CIDCO.-

Owing to CIDCO's meticulous planning, Navi Mumbai today has 1.3 million people who opted to relocate to its pleasant environs. Sixty-seven per cent of these families live in ownership houses and 74 per cent reside in CIDCO houses. Of the working population, 63 per cent is employed within the city, with 60 per cent engaged in office-oriented jobs. Seventy-five per cent of the residents are "fully satisfied with the various social facilities, especially the educational facilities," says CIDCO Chairman Vinay Mohan Lal.

Quality housing at affordable prices has been CIDCO's main aim and this has become its key selling point. Housing in Navi Mumbai is available for people of every income group, including the affluent non-resident Indians (NRIs). One of the main reasons why houses in Navi Mumbai became popular is that CIDCO provided land at concessional prices for educational establishments. "Good schools and colleges are sought after, and many Mumbai families have found that the new township has met their demands in more ways than one,'' Vinay Mohan Lal told Frontline. "Moreover, the roads never get flooded and the environment is clean. People have realised the merits of this area.''

With regard to civic amenities such as water and power supply and waste disposal, the planners have taken care to provide independent facilities for each node. For instance, aerated lagoon-type sewerage treatment plants have been developed for each node and the effluent discharge conforms to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board standards. Reliable and adequate power supply has been provided to the city, keeping in mind future needs. Similarly, water supply systems have been developed with prudence. Potable water is supplied in abundance; distribution networks with storage tanks have been established in each node.

For those who still have to commute to Mumbai, CIDCO has kept its commitment of setting up a mass rapid transit system covering 200 km, spread over six rail corridors and 30 stations. The corridors connect Navi Mumbai with Mumbai and Thane. The Mankhurd-Panvel rail corridor has been commissioned. This would be one of the biggest rail projects post-Independence, says Mohan Lal. The initiative to promote water transport between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai was aborted owing to some internal problems. The idea was to operate hovercraft services between the Gateway of India and Belapur, which would cater to south Mumbai businesses. Efforts are on to resume the services.

According to Mohan Lal, the city's progress is based on economic centres. In the heart of the city, a central business district has been developed on 575 hectares. "It is 20 times larger than Nariman Point, the central business district area in south Mumbai," the Chairman said. There are already several economic and government administrative activities concentrated in the area. The Reserve Bank of India, nationalised banks, the Konkan Bhavan, the Cotton Corporation of India and the Konkan Railway have offices there.

The "New Millennium City'' in Navi Mumbai is becoming popular. It forms a major part of the "Knowledge Corridor'' that spans Mumbai and Pune. One of the first projects of CIDCO after it created Navi Mumbai was to build the International Infotech Park at Vashi and the International Technology Park at Belapur. Both are well-equipped Information Technology centres. "The jewel of Navi Mumbai's IT sector is Reliance Infocom's Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City at Koparkhairane,'' says Mohan Lal. The IT companies in Navi Mumbai include Wipro Ltd, CMC, Tata Consultancy Services, Aptech, Track Mail, ICICI Infotech and PCS.

After creating a modern-day city, CIDCO is now moving on to other ventures. The Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone (NMSEZ) and a new international airport are two of its latest projects. NMSEZ, says Mohan Lal, is a deemed foreign territory for the purposes of trade operations, duties and tariffs. "It reflects the latest and perhaps the finest thinking so far on India's export policy and may even present the future of industrial development strategy." The Government of India (GoI) gave its approval in May 2000 for setting up a Special Export Zone (SEZ) in Navi Mumbai and asked the Government of Maharashtra (GoM) to fulfil the criteria laid down in the EXIM policy. The GoM prepared a detailed policy directive regarding the various incentives applicable to SEZs set up in Maharashtra. Incidentally, Maharashtra is the first State to announce such a policy. The GoI granted formal approval to the project in 2002. The GoM then appointed CIDCO as the nodal agency for implementing the NMSEZ project.

A task force was created within CIDCO to implement the SEZ project, in January 2001. The total project area is approximately 4,377 ha. Of this, 1,850 ha is in the Regional Park Zone and is meant for low-intensity development such as housing, golf courses and entertainment facilities. The remaining area of approximately 2,527 ha is meant for industrial activity. About 95 per cent of this land is already in CIDCO's possession.

While Mumbai's Sahar airport is able to handle most of the international air traffic, building a second international airport in Navi Mumbai has become necessary to ease the pressure. CIDCO has reserved land for the project at a strategic location, easily accessible by all modes of transport. After it gets the clearance from the Union Cabinet, CIDCO will undertake work on the airport project. "We aim to complete both the SEZ and the airport by 2007," Mohan Lal says.

Over the past three decades CIDCO, has expanded its horizons beyond Navi Mumbai. It has taken up similar tasks elsewhere in Maharashtra, at New Aurangabad, New Nanded, New Nashik, Waluj Mahanagar, Meghboot-New Nagpir Oras and Vasai-Virar. Having become a premier infrastructure development agency, it has also undertaken consultancy in infrastructure development and planning in Kerala, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

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