Don’t lose your waterfront. It will be hard to get itback.’Published: Sunday, Jan 31, 2010, 0:20 ISTBy Labonita Ghosh | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNARichard A Plunz, director of Urban Design Lab, Earth Institute, at Columbia University in the US, agrees thatdeveloping a city’s waterfront can be a complicated issue, with warring agencies and problems at multiplelevels. But cities can learn from each other to resolve this, he tells DNA.What is the importance of a waterfront?There is a temptation to see the waterfront as a recreation and leisure space, and this gets reflected in themarket because in cities everywhere, the most expensive housing is on the waterfront. There is a pattern tothis: If you take away industry and shipping from the port area, you start building condominiums.Unfortunately, this model of development doesn’t go very much further; it becomes something of a mono-functional infrastructure. In Mumbai, as in many other cities on water around the world, the port area is veryvaluable as infrastructure. It should be flexible and diverse, and try to strike a balance between rail, ferry andvehicular transport. For, if you let the infrastructure of a city go, you’ll never get it back. In New York, we’vetried to put in a more developed ferry service for the city. But the patterns are already set, and it’s difficult toretroactively establish it.Two big problems plaguing the idea of developing Mumbai’s eastern waterfront appear to be those ofslum clearance and of multiple agencies holding authority over this area. How can these be resolved?A port is very crucial, but needs to be better integrated with the city and its workings. In Mumbai, squattersmake up 60 per cent of the population, so where they live becomes an issue. We tend to think of squatters asillegitimate and are constantly trying to legitimise them. I am, however, sympathetic with both sides. TheMumbai Port Trust (MPT) has to run a business, but this business that is different from that of the squatters.Yet they are bound in a symbiotic relationship. People are very important to a city. If you move people toplaces where they have hour-long commutes, you will remove a vital sub-economy of the city, and won’t get itback. Even the sub-economy is important to make a city thrive.Therefore, there needs to be a negotiation to resolve this problem. Dharavi, with its residents carrying out vitalfunctions like recycling, is a dream for cities like New York where they’re sending their garbage 300-400 milesaway for recycling. Looking from the other side, you might think the land occupied by squatters is morevaluable for something else. But land use is a short-term profit; the human potential is more long term andsubstantial.This problem of integrating a port with the city is not peculiar to Mumbai. It happened in New York too, 40years ago, when containerisation and the shipping business moved out of the port area because of a lack ofspace. The locality was taken over for recreation, housing and such. Now there is a strong response to try andbring shipping back to the port area, but it’s too late.Officials are trying to keep whatever is left of the port and kickstart economic development there by creatingjobs and promoting production. But this is difficult to do retroactively. New York went too far in the otherdirection, by replacing production with service sectors like finance and business. In Mumbai, which has adiverse economy, integration between the port and city can be worked out creatively.What about multiple authorities?This can only be resolved politically and, again, through negotiation. We had this problem in New York as well,
where a new entity, the Port Authority of New York, was created to deal with various stakeholders andagencies. But first there had to be an agreement between all of them that the situation would improve only ifthey all worked together. A similar thing can happen in Mumbai if agencies in the city, Navi Mumbai andvarious other regions come togetherYou have to correlate all these agencies to maintain the economic advantage of a city. You can’t haveseparate agencies working separately, and against each other. In New York, the airport and certain aspects oftransportation have come under the new Port Authority, primarily because officials realised that air freight iscrucial to the economy, and created connections between the various agencies. In fact, the most advancedplanning correlates different infrastructure amenities and systems together, and places like Kobe in Japan andValparaiso in Chile, have achieved this.New York has seen the downside of losing a port area when containerisation left. The Port Authority still hasparts of the waterfront, but sections of the old port area have gone under other controls, especially those thathave been redeveloped. We still have one small port area and the community residing there is very vocalabout keeping it as it is because livelihood depends on it. They are forcing officials to rethink on how portfunctions, recreational functions and spin-off production functions can all work together in the same area, andnot in huge isolated pieces. That argument holds true of Mumbai. Besides, there is enough port activity foreveryone in Mumbai; other large facilities can be developed elsewhere in the city too, and need not beconcentrated only in the peninsulaWhat ‘creative’ solutions would you advocate?In Mumbai, as elsewhere in the world, ports are no longer just shipping operations. They are also real estateoperations because of the land they own. For instance, in New York the port authorities built the World TradeCenter and, till recently, were the ‘landlords’. They put rail connections under the towers and transportinfrastructure all around, mainly to maintain commercial activity in lower Manhattan. But this was also aninvestment for the city. The situation in Mumbai is more complex — and it’s also a later time.What has been the experience of other cities with waterfront-port area development?In Kobe after the 1995 earthquake, everything had to be rebuilt. Luckily, the government had the investment todo it and came up with an integrated solution. But all cities don’t get this chance of a makeover. I don’t thinkanyone has found an ideal answer to integrating the ‘informal’ sector [squatters etc] with the more ‘formal’work of development. It’s more complicated than having the money for it; it’s a social capital issue.It’s been relatively easy to take care of this problem in older Western cities. London has considerabledocklands, but they were largely abandoned by the time they started to develop. So also New York. In fact,New York in the 1880-90s was what Mumbai is today, with a different economic situation. Antwerp comesclosest to the ideal of understanding the relationship of a port to a city and its expansion. Even authorities inLondon and New York have tried to take lessons from it.On the other hand, places like Istanbul, which had a very dense ferry system, discovered the disadvantage ofsidelining this. It started building bridges — about three or four across the Basra — and traffic was worse thanever. There were bottlenecks at various points. In Seoul, the mayor actually dismantled an elevated highwayand ‘brought back’ a river that had been channelled to run under the city. Putting the river back has trafficworking better, and both the eco-system and the weather have improved.What are the lessons for Mumbai in this?The mayors of cities across the world need to talk to each other in a non-political, non-threatening space.Unfortunately, there is no United Nations for mayors. But if New York, Shanghai and Mumbai were to engagein dialogue, they would find they have a lot to learn from each other. In June, we plan to have a New York-Shanghai mayor’s exchange. Self-education can happen more efficiently by exchanging problems and
solutions. Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum Planning for port development / Dholera- India. Posted By: R. Sudarshana Date: Monday, 7 June 1999, at 5:49 a.m.Key words: environmental monitoring, salt extraction, sedimentation, tidal lands.INTRODUCTIONI wrote last time about Bhavnagar Bhal where development has taken its toll (The repercussionsof salt extraction / Bhavnagar Bhal-India), especially on the availability of drinking water incoastal villages. Let me now tell you another story, well - it is not yet a story. What do you sayfor a stage that is the beginning point for a story, an embryo? a blue print? Well, something likethat. Dholera is the beginning of a story and the world will hear about it for a long time. Fromour side, we have tried through all the best possible means to see that the project follows a pathof collective wisdom. Well, we are trying to see that we have a wise coastal practice.A FLOURISHING PORT IN PAST CENTURIESDholera is actually the name of a village some 25 km inland from the coast at the northern tip ofBhavnagar Bhal in Gujarat on the banks of Gulf of Cambay. It appears that until early in the lastcentury, Dholera was right on the coast and was a flourishing port with a prosperous trade. It wasin the right sense a gateway for India and Arabs, Babylonians and Caucasians carried outimport/export activities through Dholera. Dholera was a sea front with a deep water channel andthe tidal amplitude of the order of 10 m made it a good port for deep draft vessels. Big vesselsthat were anchored in deeper waters rushed to the port at the right tide and downloaded the cargobefore the tide receded. Even at low tide, draft was good in a channel called Malcolm channeland the trade went on like a song. Everyone was happy.END OF LITTLE ICE AGEThe little ice age ended sometime around 18th - 19th century and the global warming similar toEemian interglacial period started a couple of centuries back. It also coincided with the industrial
revolution and large scale destruction of forests began in greener parts of India. Indian railwayswere also exanding their routes and wooden sleepers were in great demand. Forests disappearedwhile the warming induced rains flooded the catchment areas of 4 rivers that flowed into theGulf of Cambay (GOC). Since the Central and Western Indian top soil was unprotected now,sedimentation took place in the GOC and large sediment banks started developing. Approachchannels to Dholera became shallower and Dholera itself fell from natures grace. There startedunprecedented and hitherto unknown siltation at Dholera and the coast grew beyond the harbourinto the sea of yesteryears. Time was over for Dholera and it moved back gently inland. Tradecollapsed, fickle fortune faded, hearts broke and poverty crept in. Moonlighting became a part ofhistory.COAST OF DHOLERA TODAYToday, with Dholera being far inland, the coast is a huge expanse of tidal flat. Some areas arequite well stabilised and some are still settling down. Thousands of acres of this low land (about1 or 2 m above MSL) are riddled with tidal creeks and are mostly barren. A few villages in thevicinity are on the periphery of the tidal flat which itself is confined as a peninsula between twolarge creeks. Nothing grows here and except for the peripheral villages, no one lives in theDholera tidal flats. It is hostile, no doubt, but in the minds of villagers - a deity presides over theflat and protects them. Therefore, there is a temple in the middle of the tidal flat where the lampis always kept alight by the villagers. By turn, they go there everyday, pray for the return ofprosperity and have learnt not to say no to hope. Over generations, these coastal communitieshave learnt to depend less on coastal resources. They now tend the camels, grow cotton in oneseason outside the tidal flat, collect salt from the peninsula, but are constantly aware that theirsecurity is linked to whatever goes on in the sea. Hence, the tideland deity is important.A NEW STORY BEGINS NOWThe Gujurat maritime board realised some time back that the GOC coast cannot be developedefficiently for tourism and living resources. Due to very hostile conditions, it is not all thatattractive for any pleasant activity. In terms of biodiversity and biomass, there is not much tospeak of in comparision to other areas. The only reasonable path to glory is to industrialise thecoastal zone and build ports. Why not ! The nearest port that serves central and northern India isBombay and a large country like this can be serviced well with a few ports in GOC. Due to asparse population on the north west coast of GOC, a lack of resources, no private land holdingand a hostile environment, there would not be much opposition to development projects. Themaritime board announced an opportunity to Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) ports inthe region by the private sector. One of the largest industrial houses of India came forward tobuild an all weather modern port on Dholera sea front. Dholera they chose, because it wouldinvoke historical pride in people and the entire peninsular tidal flat of more than 400 sq.km isjust available for the asking. The whole region could be turned into an industrial park supportingand drawing from the port facilities. People of the region, politicians, the maritime board andinvestors are all too eager for the opera to begin. The beginning bell rang in January 1999.WHAT IS IN THE OFFING ?
The port company has already engaged a multinational company to develop a detailed projectreport for the all weather port. Odds of nature will be fought down by the marvels of engineeringand the might of money. A 20 km long road has just been laid in the middle of the tidal flatconnecting Dholera village to the sea front. Towards the end of this year, constructions wouldbegin. First, there would be a ship breaking yard which can absorb the overflow from Alang thathappens to be worlds largest and is about 120 km south. Then there would be berths for saltexport. Meanwhile, new berths and jetties would be built along with an industrial park.Thousands of people would start living here, the tidal flat would change its face and the economyof the region is set to boom. For the local communities, the tide land deity has opened up hereyes.GOOD, BAD AND THE UGLYFirst the GOOD. The port company has planned to draw fresh water to the project site throughpipelines from a very long distance. The pipeline would pass through several villages and thelocals have been assured of water. The local community would be suitably employed in the portproject. Educational institutions of the port project will be open to the locals. In a remote villagenear to the port site, a surface tank will be built to collect rain water. The tide land deity willhave a new temple and a good motorable road. The coastline will be protected from erosion andsiltation over a wide area. All environmental regulations will be followed (hopefully) byensuring representation for scientists on the advisory board. Bhavnagar university will have goodaccess to the project site for scientific and sociological studies during the formative years. Propersatellite based surveys to analyse long term scenarios, and modelling studies to assess theenvironment are being taken up by the port.Now, let us see the BAD. The project will increase the commercial activities of salt extraction inthe Bhavnagar Bhal. Already, long before the operational phase of the port, MOUs have beensigned by salt companies with the port for the export of millions of tonnes of salt. While theproject site may provide good life conditions, life may turn out to be unpleasant beyond theradius of a certain distance. Dredging in the port site and erosion protection around the seafrontmay affect other areas that are safe till now. Conscious researchers may not get enough fundingsupport to study evolving scenarios. In India, no body gives you funds if you say something iscoming up there and I want to follow the developments. Rather, funds would come if you saythis thing has come up and I want to study its effects.What could be UGLY? Economically weaker sections like the labour communities may evolvevery unhygienic living conditions like in Alang. Due to the changed morphology of the tidalflats, vector borne diseases like malaria, dengue and plague may wreak havoc like they did in atown on the other side of GOC some years back. Today, port development is in the hands of onlya few managers who are very receptive to scientific advice. Tomorrow, due to the size of theoperations, there would be many managers and not everyone may heed to advice and the systemmay work on its own with not everything under timely control.Well friends, that is it. Stories of coastal management begin everywhere almost everyday. Butnot many of them begin like this in the barren tidal lands where nothing exists. While on the onehand, total planning is easier for areas like this, concessions from the rule position are also easier
extracted in areas like this. And it is only after a while that we realise what could have beenwiser.MORALS OF THE STORY1. Industrialization of the coast is inevitable and in some areas, it is the only wise option.2. Practical vision for the future in totality is not really possible.3. Wise practice is a contemporary truth and must change and evolve as situations develop.Hence it is a dynamic concept. You have to allow things to happen, watch constantly andperhaps change the original thoughts with changing times.4. Never say no to hope.5. You may not get funds to follow the beginning of coastal stories, but follow them somehow.