The Maharashtra state government will soon convert the sprawling 14.5-acre Worli Dairy land into a marine research centre, a world-class aquarium and an exhibition centre.
CM Uddhav Thackeray is believed to have directed the urban development department to change the land reservation. “In the next few days, the state will issue a public notification under MRTP Act 37 (1), inviting objections and suggestions,” highly placed Mantralaya sources said.
The proposal seeks to carve out 11 acres of the complex for these new public facilities including an aquarium. The remaining area will be retained by the dairy commissioner’s office while the dairy itself will be shifted to Kurla. “The land has been under-utilised for many years and only a small quantity of milk is processed here,” an officer said.
The government feels the land is not being appropriately used considering the dairy activities have reduced,” said a senior officer.
The state animal husbandry department, controlled by the Congress, had resisted the move to shift the dairy operations. “However, the CM convinced them about the new facilities on the plot and they have agreed to it,” said the officer. The land falls within the assembly constituency of Aditya Thackeray.
The state government will hand over the land either to the BMC or the tourism department once a formal decision is taken to change the land reservation.
In March 2020, just before the pandemic lockdown began, state finance minister Ajit Pawar had announced the project on the Worli Dairy land in his budget speech. He said the objective was to attract domestic and international tourists.
Over the years, the property has been eyed by several builders because of its prime location on Worli Sea face. The real estate is worth thousands of crores because of its size and location.
At one time, government is believed to have considered monetizing the land to raise funds for metro projects. The dairy department also has large tracts of land in Kurla and Goregaon.
Last year, a 25-acre plot in Kurla, which once housed a Mother Dairy complex, was to be taken over by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority for commercial exploitation. MMRDA was planning to monetise the land to fund metro projects. The land is under the state government's department of animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries.
About 10,000 sqm of the dairy land (2.5 acres) was surrendered to MMRDA for a viaduct and station of the upcoming Metro 2B line.
The dairy, shut down a few decades back, will be revived and revamped by MMRDA. A residential building for dairy staff will be built by MMRDA.
The Worli Dairy was established in 1961 at a project cost of over Rs four crore, of which Rs 80 lakh was provided by UNICEF. The dairy was inaugurated by Vijayalaxmi Pandit, then governor of Maharashtra.