In what could possibly dent the plans of the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) to start air charter planes services off the Marine Drive waters and even a luxury cruise liner later this year, a High Court-appointed panel constituted to preserve Marine Drive has halted MTDC’s project.
In a meeting on May 24, the High Court-appointed panel said that no new intrusions should be allowed on the iconic promenade “in the interest of unfettered enjoyment of the spectacle”. A floating jetty that was crucial to the MTDC’s plans was earlier allowed by the panel, but after a recent review, the three-member panel said the floating jetty is “destined to impede” normal activities at Marine Drive.
According to the minutes of the meeting, the panel was of the view that the uncluttered and singular ambience of Marine Drive promenade cannot be disturbed.
The Marine Drive area in South Mumbai was notified as a UNESCO world heritage precinct by the state in May 2015.
The HC panel, appointed in November 2015, ruled that since Marine Drive was a heritage precinct, there couldn’t be any obstruction to pedestrians in the area. The panel comprises the civic chief, the Mumbai police commissioner, and the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) chairman.
In 2016, the panel had ordered to bring down a sculpture of cricketer and Parliamentarian Sachin Tendulkar titled ‘Milestone’, which was installed at Marine Drive. More recently, the panel denied permission to the organisers of an international motorboat racing event to set up on the promenade for their three-day event in March 2017.
A senior civic official privy to the ruling related to floating jetty claimed the panel had earlier approved the project but now “in hindsight” have decided against it.
“We want to set the precedent that Marine Drive is not open to being commercially exploited. If the tourism needs to be boosted from the city’s shore then there are other parts that can be utilised,” the official said.
The 135-m Norway-make luxury cruise liner, Orient Queen, was set to be anchored two nautical miles off Raj Bhavan by October 2017.
“All necessary permissions related to security were sought, including those from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Navy Coast Guard and even the Mumbai Traffic Police. We had the go-ahead for the project. Even our tenders have been issued,” said an MTDC official on condition of anonymity, adding that MTDC’s amphibian planes project has hit a roadblock.
The air charter plane services are likely to connect Mumbai with tourist destinations across the state that are adjacent to suitable water bodies.
“…The promenade would quite undoubtedly be subjected to issues of traffic and crowd management and parking… Marine Drive promenade, which is a distinctive landmark of Mumbai, needs to be conserved and no new intrusions should be allowed in the interest of unfettered enjoyment of spectacle,” read the minutes of the recent meeting, where the permission for the floating jetty was denied.
The contentious floating jetty was supposed to be installed opposite NCPA.
Official designs of the floating jetty proposal show that a 22-m ramp would be placed over the existing tetrapods that will lead visitors to a waiting area, about 100 m in width. Visitors would have to go further over a floating walking area of 100 m in length at the end of which one of the five luxury speed boats will ferry them to Orient Queen.
A senior MTDC official said they have not received a copy of the order. Official privy to the developments said there is a “technical delay” with two of the three members of the High Court-appointed panel having already signed the order.