Mumbai Coastal Road: All you need to know

[] The SC has allowed the Mumbai civic body to reclaim land for the Coastal Road project but said that the authorities cannot undertake any development, till the court passes further orders

The Mumbai Coastal Road project was planned years ago, to connect south Mumbai with the northern areas of Mumbai’s suburbs. However, the project remained stuck due to environmental clearances. The plan was revived in 2014, to cut down the congestion in the city. While the project is still stuck in legal hassles, the development of this project could transform the city in many ways, besides reducing traffic congestion.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the Mumbai Coastal Road project.

Mumbai Coastal Road overview

 The Mumbai Coastal Road project will give rise to the city’s longest promenade, overtaking the iconic walkway at Marine Drive in south Mumbai. The proposed promenade will be 6.4 kms long, stretching from Worli to Priyadarshini Park, via Haji Ali in south Mumbai, a senior civic official said, on January 9, 2019.

The new promenade, which will be 20 metres wide, will have gardens, playgrounds, open auditoriums, cycle tracks, toilets and seating arrangements for senior citizens. The project also proposes three underground parking spaces for 1,625 vehicles. The walkway is proposed to be constructed on around 96.87 lakh sq ft of reclaimed land. Of this, 22% of the area will be used for the Coastal Road’s construction, while the remaining 78% of the land will be used for setting up public amenities.

On February 4, 2019, the Mumbai civic body announced the allocation of funds towards several major infrastructure projects as part of its Rs 30,692-crore budget for the financial year 2019-20. The BMC’s total budget estimates for the next financial year was 12.6% more than the previous fiscal. It has set aside funds for mega infrastructure projects, with the largest chunk of Rs 1,600 crores allocated to the Coastal Road project.

Mumbai Coastal Road: Fast facts

The Mumbai Coastal Road has been proposed as an alternative to the Western Freeway. In 2011, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan asked the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to consider building coastal roads, instead of capital-intensive sea links. A joint technical committee of experts was appointed and in a report submitted in January 2012, it recommended the building of a coastal road, instead of one more sea link, which would reportedly save Rs 120 billion of public money.

The proposed Coastal Road will have eight lanes – six for vehicular traffic and two for a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) corridor. The project will also include the construction of two underground earthquake-resistant tunnels – one under Girgaum Chowpatty and the other under Malabar Hill.

Mumbai Coastal Road: Current status

The Supreme Court, on October 7, 2020, reserved its order regarding the future of the Mumbai Coastal Road project, while indicating that it would not retract its earlier order allowing reclamation of sea for construction of the road and not for any other purpose. The directive came against complaints that clearance had been given only for 90 hectares but a lot more area had been reclaimed.

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Earlier, in December 2019, providing relief to the Maharashtra government, the Supreme Court had stayed the Bombay High Court order that quashed the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances granted to the city civic body’s ambitious Rs 14,000-crore Coastal Road project. A bench of chief justice SA Bobde and justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant said, “We are of the considered opinion that the order of the Bombay High Court, dated July 16, 2019, should be stayed till further orders.” It said that the respondents, including the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, could reclaim and secure the land meant for the eight-lane, 29.2 km-long road project but could not develop it, till further orders of the court.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the civic body, said that they had the CRZ clearances but did not have environmental clearances, as it was not a national highway. “There is no need for any clearances. According to the notification of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the roads do not need any clearances but highways have to get such environmental clearances. Mumbai needs roads. This road is within Mumbai,” he said. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners said: “We have to protect the coastal areas of the country. Its degradation cannot be allowed. They have been reclaiming land and pouring concrete into the ocean. This court had earlier even refused to grant interim stay of the judgement of the high court.” The bench, however, said it would stay the Bombay HC verdict and hear the matter in the month of March 2020. The hearing could not happen due to the nationwide lockdown following the Coronavirus pandemic.

It was in August 2019 when the Supreme Court bench agreed to hear the appeals filed by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Larsen and Toubro Ltd and HCC HDC JV. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Municipal Corporation, submitted that CRZ clearance was granted on the undisputed land. However, the bench issued notice and said it would hear the parties concerned.

The Bombay High Court, on July 16, 2019 had quashed the CRZ clearances granted to the city civic body’s ambitious Coastal Road project, saying there was ‘serious lacuna’ in the decision-making process and lack of proper scientific study. The court’s ruling meant that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) could not continue work on the 29.2-km-long project, proposed to connect Marine Drive area in south Mumbai to suburban Kandivali in north Mumbai.

 The Bombay High Court had also directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to respond to an experts’ body report, stating that it had not conducted adequate surveys, to study the impact of the proposed Coastal Road project on the fisherfolk in the city and on the marine life along the coast.

Earlier, the HC has also questioned the state authorities on how they could begin work on the Coastal Road project, without determining whether it was going to adversely affect fishing communities and breeding ground for fish along the proposed road. A bench of chief justice Naresh Patil and justice NM Jamdar said while development was essential, it could not come at the cost of citizens.

The court also took strong exception to the apparent ‘lack of coordination’, among the agencies involved in the project. It noted that while the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) claimed to have all requisite data on issues like the number of people being affected and breeding ground for fish along the proposed area, the state fisheries department and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest did not have any information on the same.

Construction timeline of Mumbai Coastal Road

The construction of the first phase of the Mumbai Coastal Road (the southern part), began in October 2018, after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) standing committee gave its go-ahead. The entire project is expected to be completed in four years and will be constructed in two phases – Princess Street to Worli and Bandra to Kandivali.

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The start of the project was delayed multiple times over several years, owing to hold-ups in receiving the required permissions. Most recently, the BMC’s standing committee had held back the proposal to sanction the first phase, due to the cost escalating from Rs 6,000 crores to roughly Rs 12,000 crores, in the span of a year. In September 2018, municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta addressed the committee and stated that such a drastic escalation was attributed to factors such as an increase in fuel prices, the cost of steel, the amount reserved for biodiversity as per the Environment Ministry’s guidelines and a depreciation in the value of the rupee.

Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms in India do not allow reclamation of land and the construction of the Coastal Road required the relaxation of some these norms, as parts of it will be built on reclaimed land in south Mumbai. In a meeting held in June 2013, the union environment minister at the time, Jayanthi Natarajan, had expressed concerns that the reclamation of land could adversely affect the ecology of creeks and mangroves in the city. However, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) argued that the Coastal Road could provide protection from inland flooding, while also being a vital road link to ease traffic congestion.

In June 2015, the state government signed an MoU with the Dutch government, for technical co-operation in implementing the project, as the Netherlands is known for its environment-friendly reclamation of land and preservation of its seas. The Coastal Road project finally received clearance from the union Ministry of Environment and Forests, in June 2015.

[] Mumbai Coastal Road promenade to overshadow Marine Drive walkway

Opposition to the Mumbai Coastal Road

While the Coastal Road is being lauded as an engineering marvel that will ease traffic congestion in the city, it is being criticised and opposed by the large fishing community that feels the project will jeopardise their source of livelihood. On January 31, 2019, it was reported that the Worli Koliwada Nakhawa Matsya Vyavsay Sahkari Society alleged that the BMC had obtained a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Worli Koliwada Owners Community Welfare Co-Operative Society of Worli village – a group that does not represent the fishing community in any way – and had gone ahead with the project.

The fishing community has opposed the Coastal Road project, specifically the reclamation work near Priyadarshini Park, because they fear that its construction will adversely affect the quality and quantity of fish that will be available to them, to sustain their livelihood. Fishermen from Worli have also demanded that the gap between the pillars of the Coastal Road be increased to 200 metres, instead of the currently proposed 60 metres.

In 2018, a group of urban planners and architects called the ‘Bandra Collective’, released a number of animated GIFs that showed why building the Coastal Road would be problematic for the city. The group claimed that other than possibly being an eyesore that will dominate the city’s famed skyline, the entire project was not financially sound and would do little to ease traffic congestion.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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