Counter magnet to decentralize a metropolitan city

Post-independence newly formed urban settlements were receiving support and facilities from their respective state government authorities and are developing faster than the mother cities. On this background the 1965 (MARG) article of Correa, Mehta and Patel distinctly stands out. It did not crave for limiting growth of Mumbai city but making room for its expansion on the mainland. The MARG article proposed a large integrated city on the mainland single major urban center on the mainland opposite Mumbai, of equal prestige and importance which could develop into an area, as large as the old city rather than number of separate small satellite towns. Thus Navi Mumbai came into existence.

Origin of Navi Mumbai

Timeline of population growth in Mumbai City

In 1910, Mumbai city experienced high concentration of docks trading posts, textile mills and government offices have made it the prominent port of Western India. Further till 1950’s this range of activities led to crowding at an unprecedented scale. The central business district of the city is located in the southern tip of the island to which large amount of workforce commutes daily basis from suburbs located in north. The north-south commute on the narrow island corridor started creating traffic issues and congestion. The geographical location of the Mumbai, has in-built constrains that have exacerbated the problem of overcrowding. Thus in 1970, the need of new city felt on the main island of equal size and importance as the old city, would absorb potential migrants into Mumbai island and attract some of city’s residents and there by a counter magnet (Draft Development Plan, Navi Mumbai, 1973). Thus In order to decentralize the metropolitan city and to become an alternative growth node, Navi Mumbai was planned. Almost equal in area to Greater Mumbai, to be made up of 14 new towns that together will act as a counter magnet to draw any potential migrant’s from the old city and resettle a part of its exiting population (Correa, 1965).

Emergence of the idea

The Twin Metropolis; Mumbai & Navi Mumbai

Initial stage consists discussions and debates regarding controlling the development of the city. Several documents were issued regarding the development of Mumbai’s suburb, housing, traffic and industrial dispersal. In 1965 an article written by Mumbai’s two leading architects, Charles Correa and Pravin Mehta and engineer Shirish Patel, published by MARG (Modern Architect’s Research Group) presented the idea of a ‘counter magnet’ or ‘new urban center’ on the mainland to draw away the population from Greater Mumbai (Shaw, The Making of Navi Mumbai, 2004). The article suggested the building of ‘single major urban center’ on the mainland opposite Mumbai, of equal prestige and importance which could develop into an area, as large as the old city rather than number of separate small satellite towns (Correa, 1965). Ultimately, the idea of ‘counter magnet’ received official acceptance and was made a feasible project. The guiding principal for its internal structure was individual settlements, self-contained in respect of physical and social amenities.

Initial organizational set-up
The administrative management of the new city was adopted by state government in 1970, with CIDCO (City and Industrial Development Co-operation of Maharashtra), a state government enterprise, was created to plan and develop, Navi Mumbai (Draft Development Plan, Navi Mumbai, 1973). MARG’s influence on CIDCO was very strong when Charles Correa and Pravin Mehta and Shirish Patel, were given key decision making positions. Their ideas shaped CIDCO’s Draft Development Plan, which appeared in October 1973.
The Draft Development Plan had the foremost objectives of Navi Mumbai. Few of them as follows
1.To reduce the growth rate of population in greater Bombay by absorbing immigrants who would otherwise come to Bombay; to attract some of Bombay’s population.
2.To provide physical and social services which would raise living standards and reduce disparities in the amenities available to different sections of the society.
3.To facilitate efficient and rational distribution of industries over the state, balancing development of urban centers in the hinterland.
(Draft Development Plan, Navi Mumbai, 1973).

Formation of the city
Site selection
In 1970, the 344 square kilometres of land were identified for development of Navi Mumbai, opposite greater Mumbai and across Thane creek (Draft Development Plan, Navi Mumbai, 1973). Which were spread over the parts of Thane and Raigad district of Maharashtra that forms a part of Northen Konkan region. Both natural and administrative boundaries of villages were used to demarcate Navi Mumbai. Its entire west side faces the Thane creek. Its north-eastern side is bounded in line by the presence of Parsik hills. In the wild middle section, the eastern boundary is made up of the administrative boundaries of villages of Panvel tehsil (CIDCO, Exploring transformation of Navi Mumbai, 2018)

Land use pattern (Navi Mumbai, 1973)

The major part of the land was marshy and undeveloped; consisted of agricultural land and saltpans. Few portions of land were developed for instance Panvel, Uran towns, areas under MIDC, MSEB, defence department and gaothans which took approximately 50b sq.kms. of the designated area. The balance that is, 294 sq.kms. was the net project area. Of this, 166 sq.kms.(57%) was private land, 27 sq.kms. (9%) was saltpan land and 101 sq.kms. (34%) was government (Draft development plan, 1973).

Spatial planning

Conceptual nodal planning

Polycentric nodal pattern is adopted for the development of Navi Mumbai, due to the available resources on site and experience from Greater Mumbai. The new urban canter would contain about twenty small individual towns, strung along Mass Transport axis. Each self-contained in terms of physical infrastructure and social facilities and yet economically inter-connected to form a dispersed metropolitan matrix that in area and importance would equal to old Mumbai. Each nodal settlement spread over 400-600 hectors of land would contain between 50,000 to 200,000 people. The nodes were planned to be self-contained in terms of jobs, education, and other service (Draft Development Plan, Navi Mumbai, 1973). It was planned to provide about 750000 jobs for a population of about 2 million. The principal behind: 1. Make Navi Mumbai self-sustaining 2. Shifting of jobs concentrated in the southern part of Mumbai 3. Use the job centers with matching infrastructure provision, as engines of growth for the new city (Draft Development Plan, Navi Mumbai, 1973).

Economic base

The initial idea of Navi Mumbai’s economic base, would found in how Mumbai grew. It was Industries, ports and later Government offices. In the Navi Mumbai area, industries were already present. City had availability of port land thus site was selected and proposed for port development. Further it was argued if government employment also put in economic sector. The same 3 elements were replicate in Navi Mumbai which gave raise to Mumbai city. Thus its envisaged a big city will emerge out of it. Hence the idea of seat of government to move from island to mainland emerged. The economic base envisaged for the development of Navi Mumbai projects to provide over 7 lakhs jobs in the industrial, market and government sectors mainly white-collar job. Manufacturing jobs were estimated to reach 115,000 by the year 1991 and jobs in government bodies were estimated to reach 825,000 (Shaw, The making of Navi Mumbai, 2004).

Proposed economic base fo Navi Mumbai

The major principal behind this envisaged base, is to shift the jobs to mainland to reduce the concentration of island city. For which Navi Mumbai has provision of existing infrastructure from early stage. This would also envisaged to make Navi Mumbai Self-sufficient. There was also need to the commute of office-goers to south Mumbai and the shifting of office activities to the new location could do this, which are earlier established in Mumbai’s CBD at Nariman Point to Navi Mumbai. Thus city structure was planned with a CBD within the city. Further decongestion on the island was anticipated to occur with the completion of the Nheva Sheva port on the mainland, lead to shifting of many port activities from Mumbai port (SHAW, 2009)


Transport rote along the nodes

Navi Mumbai to be organized along public transport mode, with each node developing along it. The nodes would be strung out on the mass transport axes such that for residents of node, a mass transit stop would be within walking distance (Draft Development Plan, Navi Mumbai, 1973).

Though what is the current scenario??
Even after 4 decades there is still a Difference between projected and current population

 Projected population by 1990Population count till 2011Difference
Navi Mumbai20,00,00011,80,5988,19,402
Source: Socio Economic Profile of Households of Planned Nodes in Navi Mumbai 2010

The difference in attracting population growth is attributed with the events occurred in evolution of the cities which are: (1) Uncertain economic base (2) Market trends (3) Dependency on nearby urban areas

Proposed economic base, of (1) shifting of Government jobs from old Mumbai to Navi Mumbai, to reduce the congestion of employment in south Mumbai. Oppositions from local political parties and lack of commitment by the government shifting of Government offices never opted. (2) The anticipation of port gets operational got delayed. Also when it got materialized, the employment couldn’t achieve anticipated number as it was highly mechanized. Thus the two major inputs envisaged for growth of city got delayed or never materialized.

Dependency on nearby-urban areas:
The initial objectives of Navi Mumbai was to be an independent city. Though (1) later stages required to incorporate transport linkages to connect with nearby urban areas as Navi Mumbai started growing as an expansion of Housing market. (2) Also when the shifting of employment from island to mainland failed, CIDCO was still in search of an economic base for Navi Mumbai. Above events led the population to settle in Navi Mumbai while commuting for work in mother city Mumbai. Effectively, Navi Mumbai remained dependent on the capital city.

Despite planning, newly planned cities are experiencing objective gaps between envisaged scenario and current state. With the period of time the market conditions changes and lead to change in requirement of the cities.The gaps are associated with reforms like (1) Initial objectives presented on assumptions with uncertain elements. (2) No political support for planner’s vision and limited policy tools to implement the objectives. (3) Inadequate / low pace implementation of methodologies. (4) Market trends; not accordance with initial ideologies. (5) No mechanism for monitoring and evolution.

Envisaging major inputs for urban growth over a long term has its own assumptions and risks. Planners also don’t have enough policy tools for provisions. Addition to this there is no sometimes there are no mechanism for monitoring and evaluation, so the corrective measures can be thought of. Building a new city very close to the existing large built city can rarely achieve self-sufficiency. A lot of people has the flexibility to commute nearby city. A common feature observed in new towns; lot of dependency to the nearby urban areas. It’s mainly attributed to the heterogeneous population & limited resources unable to ensure the economic development.

Considering achieving objectives of cities, some will met, others not as it’s difficult to implement everything. In-between responding to market, the concept of the growth of the city needs to carry forwards fully.

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