Mumbai’s flagship infrastructure project, the ` 12,000 crore toll-free coastal road, has got final environmental clearances from the Centre. The 30-kilometre-long coastal road will be constructed in two phases. The first phase will be between south Mumbai’s Marine Drive and Carter Road in Bandra. The second phase will be a road from Bandra to Kandivli along the coastline and this phase is also likely to get another sea link.
The Bombay High Court has granted an in-principle approval to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s ambitious Coastal Road project. This approval will pave the way for the collector to hand over the foreshore land to the BMC. The civic authority needed an approval of the committee for the construction of a 500-m stretch of the Coastal Road, from Chhota Chowpatty till Princess Street flyover. This stretch falls within the Marine Drive area, which is a heritage precinct. The ` 12,000-crore project promises to ease the travel woes of Mumbaikars along the 35.6-km stretch between Nariman Point in south Mumbai and Kandivali in the western suburbs.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced in a tweet that the proposed Mumbai coastal road project has received the final approval from the central government. He said, “This coastal road will ease the congestion on Western Expressway and give a faster and smoother ride to Mumbaikars. The UPA government at centre and the Congress-NCP government in state were just talking about it for 15years but in 2years we got all approvals to build the road.”
Going Back: The hurdles
In 2016 a SET of four tenders for the first phase of the coastal road project between Nariman point to Kandivali was opened on April 27 at a total cost of ` 4,271 crore. Considering the costs of the tenders, officials in the department are estimating the cost of the coastal road project to be lower than the originally estimated figure. The first phase of the 34 km long coastal road, which was estimated to cost around ` 12,000 crores, with a 3.4 km long underground tunnel from the Princess Street flyover till Priyadarshini park at the cost of ` 640.5 crore.
In January 2016, the BMC presented the application for CRZ clearance to the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) with an estimated cost of ` 4,153 crore for an approximate length of 33.77 km. By the time MCZMA recommended the proposal, the total length was reduced to 30.07 km. In its recommendation to the MoEFCC, the MCZMA has put forward 28 specific conditions. It has also observed that the coastal road will have an impact on the nearby habitats of traditional coastal communities. It has asked the civic body to ensure navigational channels are not blocked in koliwada (fishing village) areas and that fishing activity is not hampered.
Even in July 2017, Mumbai there was news of the proposed Versova-Bandra Sea Link (VBSL), to be set up by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), which was likely to be sound the death knell of the second phase of BMC’s ambitious coastal road project. With the state government directing to go ahead with VBSL, the civic body has no option left but to abandon the northern end of the project.
In a bid to expedite the project, BMC had decided to divide it into two parts: southbound and northbound. The south part includes the stretch from Marine Drive to BWSL while the north part includes the stretch from BWSL to Kandivali. With all hurdles clear, BMC was all set to start the southbound project from October. However, the northbound project has run into trouble with the state government putting its weight behind MSRDC to build VBSL. As both VBSL and the BWSL to Kandivali route go in the same direction, the state government has asked BMC to cancel its plans to go ahead with the north end of the project.
Environmentalists and civic activists aggressively opposed Mumbai’s Coastal Road Project, not only because it “would impact the environment adversely”, but also for various other reasons. They claimed it would promote private vehicle ownership and benefit just a few, even as the eight-lane link from Nariman Point to Kandivali along the west coast will destroy the city’s marine life and affect the community of local fishermen.
While the process to address the opponents’ concerns went on, the government amended the Coastal Regulatory Zone Notification, 2011, to allow reclamation for the project. The Union environment & forests ministry gave Maharashtra go-ahead to reclaim land for construction by issuing a notification in this regard. The body responsible for carrying out the civic work, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, stepped up the work and appointed Frischmann Prabhu, an arm of UK-based engineering consultancy firm Pell Frischmann, to review the project. In April this year, the BMC invited bids to start work for the first phase, which might take two years to complete.
Impact on tidal circulation and coastal erosion were some of the major environmental concems raised that arise from the project making its execution crucially dependent on the environmental clearance to be sought from the MoEF.
The construction of the project involved reclamation of as much as 8 km of mangrove tracts and 9.8km of reclamation in the sea. An amendment would have to be made to the Coastal Regulatory Zone notification of 2011 which bans reclamation in CRZ-I areas. In February 2013, the BMC called for private consultants to conduct detailed analyses, surveys and to pitch a proposal to the union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) to obtain an environmental clearance. On July 2013: After a receiving only a single response initially, four agencies submitted proposals after an extension was granted. The BMC is Scrutinising these proposals to select an agency.
Relief in 2017:
Earlier on April 2017 Expert committee had already given nod for key stretch of Mumbai coastal road.
A panel under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had cleared a key stretch of a major ‘coastal road’ project in Mumbai that will reportedly significantly de-congest the city’s traffic. The go-ahead was given by the Expert Appraisal Committee for Coastal Regulation Zone.
The proposed 35 km coastal road has been divided into two parts, a northern and southern stretch. The latter will connect the Princess Street Flyover to the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. It, however, requires reclaiming about 90 hectares of land from the sea and, therefore, as per environment regulations, needs to be cleared by a central authority.
On March 17, the Central expert appraisal committee, headed by Deepak Apte of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), had said the project could go ahead provided the coastal road was toll free, did not affect tidal behaviour, that the reclaimed land would not be used to build houses and offices, any resulting open spaces would be free of encroachment, fishermen would be resettled in the area if they were affected, and a dedicated bus lane would be created.
The 30-km project
The Coastal Road-Mumbai (South) will have bridges over the sea, tunnels (two tubes, each of about 3.452 km in length) and elevated roads, and will be a 9.98 km-stretch that will cost ?5,303 crore. The 30-km project is cumulatively expected to cost ?12,000 crore
According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the proposed southern stretch of the coastal road will reduce commuting time by around 70%, slash fuel consumption by 34% and cut carbon footprint by about 1,826 tonnes of CO2 per annum.
A combination of underground tunnels, bridges and elevated roads, the 34-km long project will be built at an estimated cost of ` 12,000 crore, and will have the following four stretches:
Stretch 1: A 3.4-km underground tunnel from the Princess Street flyover (Nariman Point) to Priyadarshini Park (Bandra), to be built at a cost of ` 640.5 crore.
Stretch 2: A 3.8-km bridge from Priyadarshini Park to Baroda Palace (Worli) at a cost of ` 1,540.2 crore.
Stretch 3: A 2.7-km long stretch from Baroda Palace to the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sea-Link at a cost of ` 757.8 crore.
Stretch 4: A 4.3-km stretch from Bandra end of the Bandra-Worli Sea link to Carter Road at a cost of ` 1,332.6 crore.
The project, expected to take five years to complete, will certainly raise property prices in the areas that it will provide connectivity.
With this Coastal road sea front will be available all through from Marine Drive to Kandivali.
This project will act as a catalyst for the development of the western corridor of Mumbai
The proposed projects road alignment will start from Princess Street Flyover with an inshore tunnel to Priyadarshini Park with an interchange at Amarsan Garden and continue alongside Mahalaxmi Temple.
This alignment will further pass alongside Haji Ali Dargah with the Haji Ali Interchange
A section from Markandeshwar Temple to Worli Sea Link shall be connected with Worli Sea interchange
This project road is characterised as multi mobile corridor with provisions for four kane carriage way
There are also future provisions for future high capacity of rail and metro system
BRTS bus stop has proposed all along the alignment alongside the carriageway along with the Pedestrian underpass and foot over bridges
The provision of multi level car parking will be there along with taxi and bus stand
The entire road of the coastal road is divided along two path namely south section and north section covering 9.98 km and 19.3 km respectively.
Addressing the pollution problem
While opponents of the project are lambasting it on the assumption that it will cause environmental damage, the project will actually help bring Mumbai’s pollution down. How? The number of vehicles registered in Mumbai increased from 12,33,675 in 2004 to 19,17,798 in 2011. This shows that on an average 97,731 vehicles were added to the city’s already congested roads every year, assuming no vehicle went off the road during the period. Motor vehicles are one the biggest sources of pollution in the city. And, the situation gets worse with traffic congestion and unusual low speeds increasing vehicles’ carbon emission.
An Island City surrounded by the Arabian Sea on the east, south and west, Mumbai, unlike other major cities, does not have a ring road network to channel its traffic from one side to another. This fully explains the classic jams on the city roads. When the coastal road project is complete its 18 entry and exit points would allow better traffic movement between the freeway and local roads it will not only help achieve faster vehicular speeds, but will also hit the brakes on Mumbai’s carbon emission levels.
One of the points the critics raise is that the project might diminish the green cover of the city. However, the truth is that finding open spaces in the Maximum City is a difficult task. Mumbai has been able to add only 360 hectares of public amenity spaces, including green spaces, over the past two decades. Mumbai and its classic space crunch have inspired authors and movie makers for generations.
How will a freeway help the city handle this? The coastal road project will allow the space-starved city to create more open spaces for its public by building sea-side gardens, promenades, and jogging & cycle tracks. The panel that reviewed the project in 2011 also suggested building public facilities like toilets and drinking water systems along the project, apart from “providing beaches through soft protection measures at appropriate locations”. The project would generate recreational spaces of about 75 hectares by the sea side through creation of sea-side promenades and cycle tracks.
The full fledged result is yet to be seen but is undoubtedly one of most looked out project of recent times. If implemented properly this will give a big thrust to overall development of Mumbai.
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