Maharashtra’s project to build a 210-metre tall memorial of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji on a 16-hectare islet in the Arabian Sea may have angered environmentalists, but the project will break ground on a “green” note. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has approved a proposal to use rubble from the 33.5-km-long Colaba-Seepz underground Metro line for building the memorial in the sea.
While the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation had earlier identified quarries in Raigad and Thane district where all the rubble excavated for Mumbai’s first underground Metro project could be transported, Fadnavis confirmed that he recently approved an alternate plan to put it to use for the memorial project.
Ahead of the crucial Mumbai municipal polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fly down to the financial capital on Saturday for laying the foundation stone for the Rs 3,600-crore memorial project. Faced with protests from the Maratha community over the demand for reservations in education and jobs, the ruling BJP in the state is marketing the memorial’s rollout as their vachanpurti or fulfillment of promise.
Work for construction of the underground Metro has already broken ground and is aimed for completion in three-and-a-half years. Ashwini Bhide, Managing Director, MMRC, which is implementing the Metro line project, said, “An estimated 5-6 million cubic metre of hard rock is expected to be excavated from tunnelling activity and building stations for the Metro project. This would translate into an estimated 10-12 million cubic metre of sand on crushing.”
According to information, it was the MMRC that first approached various state and central government agencies for “repurposing” or “reusing” this excavated earth about a year ago after results of the geotesting and soil sampling for the Metro route revealed “good quality basalt rock” was to be dug up.
“The Shivaji memorial plan was in conception stage at that time. We had also proposed that the sand can be put to use for building the (proposed) Mumbai coastal road project, and also for various development activities being planned by the Mumbai Port Trust and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT),” Bhide said.
After the Shivaji memorial project had been finalised and all permissions obtained, the state Public Works Department (PWD) and senior bureaucrats in the CMO assessed the MMRC’s proposal. “The rock islet where the memorial is being built submerges during high tide. To build the memorial and set up allied facilities, we would need tonnes of sand. So instead of sand dredged from other parts, it was felt that it would be environmentally and economically sound to reuse the excavated sand from the Metro project,” said a top government source.
The sources said that the CMO has plans to also use the Metro waste for the coastal road project. Bhide, meanwhile, said that even the JNPT had written to the MMRC for supply of the excavated sand.
Some of the arrangements for transportation of the rubble to the memorial site are already in place. “About six months ago, the chief minister had permitted the MMRC to utilise a jetty near the Bandra end of the Bandra Worli Sea Link. This could be used for the transportation of the muck in barrages to the memorial site,” said Bhide. She further informed that her agency was also in talks with JNPT authorities for allowing a similar operation for another jetty (Kerosene jetty) in Sewri.
The Metro project has already begun excavation for some of stations proposed along the route, while tunneling activity, she said, would commence next August. “About 30 per cent of the rubble is expected to be generated in the first year itself,” she said.
But some milestones remain to be achieved. “We would need about 4 hectare land for unloading the excavated earth at the Bandra jetty site. We have written to the Mumbai municipality, which possesses an adjoining land parcel, for making land available,” Bhide said.
The contractors building the Metro might also come into play since their contracts had built in the cost for transportation to the quarries. “But it is obvious that the cost for transportation to the memorial would be lesser than transportation to the quarries situated outside the city. So there should be no objection from the contractors,” a source said. The state Public Works Department would need to formally enroll the Metro contractors for the sand transportation.
The Metro rubble would also have to be sent to the quarries or used for some other development project during monsoon, when transportation to the memorial site may not be possible, said sources.