In a letter to the Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte, telecom company Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd has sought “speedy approvals” for trenching 500 kms of roads in Mumbai, mainly in the island city and in the western suburbs. The trenching has been proposed in order to lay optical fibre cables to set up 4G mobile towers.
Five hundred kms of proposed trenches adds up to roughly three times the distance between Mumbai and Nashik. Currently, nearly 320 different stretches of roads across the city and suburbs are already dug up by various utility agencies since December last year.
According to the letter accessed by Newsline, the company has requested Kunte to issue instructions to zonal deputy municipal commissioners and ward officers to issue permits for entire stretches within a ward at one go. Currently, officers may issue permissions for only a five-km stretch at a time, the letter states.
The letter, sent on February 9, states that the firm has sought permissions for “231 cases” of which the BMC has granted permission for only “61 towers” as of February 9. “The Commissioner has delegated powers to executive engineer (BP) special cells. He needs to accelerate the approvals,” the letter states. It adds that the company aims to roll out its 4G network in Mumbai before the monsoon and asks Kunte to designate a senior official to resolve difficulties with ward offices.
The letter also includes a list of roads where open trenching is to be undertaken. The list of more than 75 roads includes BG Kher Marg, Maratha Mandir Road, Bapurao Jagtap Marg near Mahalakshmi bridge, the Kherwadi Road near Bandra and the Saki Vihar Road in western suburbs, all busy roads. According to a source, the commissioner has sought a review from zonal officers on the current status of the permissions.
A Reliance Jio spokeperson said the trenching was necessary for improved telecom services. “Telecom users in Mumbai city have been experiencing call drops and various service-related problems. Reliance Jio is committed to building a digital network in line with the Prime Minister’s Digital India initiative. Reliance Jio has requested BMC to expedite approvals and cut procedural delays to enable us to implement the project which will contribute in making Mumbai a smart city,” the spokesperson said.
Open trenching along 500 km of city roads is expected to further worsen traffic snarls. The drive from the eastern suburbs to central Mumbai is currently already severely hit by marathon pile-ups owing to road works and trenching at various spots.
Asif Zakaria, Congress corporator and member of the Standing Committee, said, “This move will only add to the troubles of Mumbaikars. They are now being held at ransom.” The corporator will be moving a notice of motion to re-open and re-consider the proposal to set up mobile towers in open spaces on Thursday’s general body meeting of the BMC.
According to the gardens department of the BMC, permissions have been given to set up mobile towers in more than 400 gardens in the city.