More than a year after an expert committee of the union environment ministry cleared a proposal for the Bandra-Versova sea link, the cabinet sub-committee of infrastructure Wednesday discussed the Rs 4,045-crore project and sought changes in its financial model.
The project, proposed by the NCP-controlled Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), is one of the many projects totaling Rs 13,000 crore, awaiting the Cabinet sub-committee’s approval. The sub-committee, chaired by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, comprises nine Cabinet ministers, of which four belong to the Congress. All projects being undertaken on a build-operate-transfer mode and worth more than Rs 25 crore need a nod from the sub-committee.
The Bandra-Versova sea link is a northwards extension to the Worli-Bandra sea link, and represents the last leg of the link which starts from Nariman Point (see highlight chart). The 9.9-km link is proposed to be a public private partnership (PPP) project.
At the sub-committee meeting on Wednesday, members suggested the concession period be reduced from the originally proposed 30 years. “The concession period was found to be too high. Committee members were not comfortable with it.
Members discussed that the MSRDC should make a sincere attempt to bring down the concession period,” said a government official who did not wish to be named.
“Besides elaborating the financial model, the MSRDC also explained the index plan, details on the ramps, technical information about the sea link and so on,” the official said. After re-examining the financial plan, the MSRDC will now have to take the proposal to the union government to obtain viability gap funding for the project, he added. Viability gap funding refers to the state’s monetary contribution to a project being implemented on a public private partnership model.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar of NCP had last week launched an offensive against the government for holding back decisions stating this may affect the combine’s poll prospects. Some of the other projects of MSRDC, chaired by NCP’s Jaydatt Kshirsagar, include a passenger water transport system around Mumbai, the Worli-Haji Ali sea link and capacity augmentation of the Mumbai-Pune expressway.
According to the proposal that the MSRDC had submitted to the union Ministry of Environment and Forests while applying for an environment clearance, the Bandra-Versova sea link will be built 900 metres into the sea. It will have eight lanes and traffic dispersal points at Joggers Park and Juhu Koliwada. After discussions with the fisher folk there, the MSRDC has proposed spans of 50 metres each at Bandra and 100 metres at other locations.
The Original Sea Link Plan
Nariman Point to Haji Ali – The plan was to build a sea link from Haji Ali to Priyadarshini Park, followed by a tunnel under Malabar Hill to Tambe chowk and another along Marine Drive. MSRDC in 2011 appointed a consultant to conduct a fresh feasibility study. However, the project is on the backburner now.
Haji Ali to Worli – MSRDC had tendered the project to be constructed on a PPP basis. The project has remained a non-starter due to differences between MSRDC and RInfra over viability gap funding and land. The project is yet to be discussed by the sub-committee.
Worli to Bandra – The sea link was constructed on a cash contract model and opened to public in 2009. The project has been criticised for not being able to draw as much traffic as was expected. Officials say the desired traffic level will be achieved only once the other arms to the sea link are constructed.
Bandra to Versova – MSRDC has proposed to construct the 9.9-km sea link on PPP basis. The agency will approach the Centre for VGF and calling tenders after the sub-committee nod.
The western freeway was originally planned over a decade ago as a network of sea links from Versova to Nariman Point, with the Bandra-Worli sea link conceived as a part of it. However, for the past two years, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who has said capital-intensive projects like sea links are impractical, has been pushing for a 35.6-km coastal road instead through land reclamation.