The Independent People’s Tribunal, a residents’ group comprising human rights activists and former bureaucrats, have labelled BMC’s ambitious coastal road project as ‘anti-people’ and demanded the scrapping of the project. They released a report on Monday based on a discussion at a public hearing they organised in October last year, bringing forth their contentions about various aspects of the project, including planning, impact on the environment and loss of livelihood for the Koli community. Among those who extended their support to the demand of scrapping the project are two former municipal commissioners D M Sukthankar and Jamsheed Kanga.
Members of the group said that the people of the city barely had any access to information about the project. “Every second day, they keep changing the alignment or costs. The municipal corporation has not conducted a single public hearing to inform those who live and work along the west coast about the details of the project. People’s right to know is being violated since there is very little information in the public forum,” said Darryl D’Monte, convenor of the IPT.
Sukthankar said that there were several glaring errors and contradictions in the detailed project report. He pointed out that alteration of the existing geomorphology and hydrological patterns would result in disastrous consequences. He also claimed that the project discounted public transport, adding that bus corridors were just an eyewash and would not attract a sizeable number of passengers since it was at the extreme western edge of the metropolis.
Retired Justice Hosbet Suresh alleged that the coastal road project had been proposed to only benefit the builder lobby. “Who is really benefiting from this project? A small percentage of car owners who will use this road. Reclamation work for the project will generate more FSI which will be given to the builders. That is the whole point of this project,” he said. He added that the project violated the right to life.
Similarly, activists pointed out that the view and importance of heritage structures like the Haji Ali Dargah, the Bandra Fort and the Mahalaxmi temple would be ruined. Calling it a waste of taxpayers’ money, activist and AGNI trustee Shyama Kulakrni said,”Only 7% of Mumbaikars using motorizsed transport will use this road which will be made for an estimated cost of Rs 12,000 crore. This is gross injustice and waste of public money,” she said. She added that heavy construction and reclamation would adversely impact fishing activity and affect the thriving fishing communities of Khar Danda, Chimbai, Moragaon, Malad and Kandivali.
A panel of 16 noted professionals, comprising journalist Nikhil Wagle, social activist Shabana Azmi, NEERI scientist Rakesh Kumar, former secretary of Urban development ministry D T Joseph and urban planner Shirish Patel, have prepared a signature petition. The report will be submitted to the chief minister and Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta this week.
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