Evolution of Navi Mumbai


A phenomenal rate of urban growth has been experienced by India during the 25 years following independence and Bombay has had its due share in it. The population of Greater Bombay rose from 2.966 millions in 1951 to 4.152 millions in 1961 and to 5.970 millions in 1971, registering 40.0 and 43.80 per cent growths during the first and second decades respectively. The rapid rate of growth of population, made possible by the increasing industrial and commercial importance of the city, resulted in a fast deterioration in the quality of life for the majority of people living in the city. Development inputs could not keep pace with the rapidly growing population, industry, trade and commerce. Besides, there are physical limitations to the growth of a city built on a long and narrow peninsula, which has very few connections with the mainland.

The Government of Maharashtra has been alive to the emerging problems of this metropolis. Responsible public opinion was equally vigilant and several constructive suggestions appeared from time to time in the press and elsewhere. All this helped in keeping the problems of Bombay in the forefront of public awareness. In 1958, the Govt. of Bombay appointed a study group under the Chairmanship of Shri S.G. Barve, Secretary to Government, Public Works Department, to consider the problems relating to congestion of traffic, deficiency of open spaces and play fields, shortage of housing and over concentration of industry in the metropolitan and suburban areas of Bombay, and to recommend specific measures to deal with these.

The Barve Group reported in February, 1959. One of its major recommendations was that a rail-cum-road bridge be built across the Thane Creek to connect peninsular Bombay with the mainland. The group felt that the bridge would accelerate development across the Creek, relieve pressure on the city’s railways and roadways, and draw away industrial and residential concentrations eastward to the mainland. The Group hoped that the eastward development would be orderly and would take place in a planned manner.

The Government of Maharashtra accepted the Barve Group recommendation. Another Committee under the Chairmanship of Prof. D.R. Gadgil, then Director of the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Poona was formed and asked “to formulate broad principles of regional planning for the metropolitan regions of Bombay Panvel and Poona and to make recommendations for the establishment of Metropolitan Authorities for preparation and execution of such plans”.

The Gadgil Committee inter-alia made two important recommendations which have influenced the planning for Navi Mumbai. One, a planned decentralization of industries with severe restrictions on further industrial growth in the Bombay region. Two, development of the mainland area as a multi-nucleated settlement, each settlement smaller in size than 2.5 lacs population. These multi-nucleated settlements are called nodes in the plan, where the entire development is proposed as a series of nodes strung out along mass transit area. The nodes proposed by us are, however, more closely spaced than the multi-nucleated settlements envisaged by Dr. Gadgil. But the principle remains of individual settlements, self-contained in respect of schools and shopping and other essential services and separated from each other by green spaces.

The Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act was passed in 1966 and brought into force in January, 1967. The Bombay Metropolitan Region was notified in June 1967 and a Regional Planning Board constituted under the Chairmanship of Shri L.G. Rajwade, I.C.S. The Draft Regional Plan of the Board was finalized in January, 1970. It proposed the development of a twin city across the harbour, on the mainland to the east, as a counter-magnet to the office concentration taking place at the southern tip of Bombay. The alternative growth pole was to siphon off the over concentration of jobs and population which further growth would cause in the city and reallocate these on the mainland. In making this recommendation, the Board was influenced by various factors such as the existing industrial sites in the Thana-Belapur area and Taloja, the imminent completion of the Thana Creek Bridge and the proposal of the Bombay Port Trust to establish a new port at Nhava Sheva.

The Board recommended that the new metro-centre or Navi Mumbai as it is now called, be developed to accommodate a population of 21 lacs. The Board also recommended that simultaneously with the taking up of a new metro-centre project, attention should also be paid to the planning and development of a number of other smaller centres in the surrounding region, of which the most important were the Thana, Ulhasnagar, Bhiwandi, Khopoli, Kalyan and Dombivali complexes.


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