The Maharashtra government is focussing on expediting a loan agreement for the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) during Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s upcoming visit to Japan next week. With this, the government also aims to fast-track the implementation of the showpiece project.
For over eight months now, JICA has been appraising the project, which has gone through three failed rounds of tendering from technical and social impact perspectives, before entering into a financing agreement.
UPS Madan, metropolitan commissioner at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), said, “The chief minister will meet the top officials of JICA and Japan’s Ministry of Economic, Trade and Industries. Perhaps, there could also be a meeting with the Japanese prime minister. The idea is to expedite the loan agreement so that work can start at the earliest.”
The state government is expecting JICA to finance at least 80 per cent of the total project cost of Rs 11,000 crore at an annual interest rate of 1.4 per cent.
The Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link is proposed to be a 22-kilometre link across the Mumbai harbour between Sewri and Nhava Sheva. Besides improving connectivity with the main land and decongesting Mumbai, the link has also been planned as a connector for the Navi Mumbai International Airport, the bidding process for which is already underway. The first phase of the airport is expected to be complete by December 2019.
The state’s chief secretary, Swadheen Kshatriya, who had recently discussed the project as a priority with the prime minister’s office, said, “We want to speed up the implementation of the harbour link as we want to complete it by the time the airport is ready to commence operations. We are expecting a final clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) soon. By then we hope to clinch a loan agreement with JICA.”
Securing environment clearance for the trans-harbour link has been a challenge. The project, which environmentalists have opposed in its current form demanding a change in alignment, will affect 38 hectares of protected mangroves and 8.8 hectares of forest land in Navi Mumbai. It will mainly pass through mudflats frequented by migratory flamingoes.
The MoEF has told the MMRDA to submit a report drafted by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) on mitigation measures the authority will take to minimise the impact on flamingoes.
“We have asked the BNHS to conduct an impact study and suggest mitigation measures. In about 10-12 days, we should receive the report, which we will submit to the MoEF. We hope to get a final environment clearance in about a month,” Madan said.
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