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Sea reclamation suggestion splits MoEF committee

The technical committee formed on a directive from the Ministry of Environment and Forests to study the feasibility of coastal roads for Mumbai is now split down the middle over a radical suggestion by an expert member regarding land reclamation up to 100 metres off the shore,a move that will comprehensively alter the city’s coastline as well as the curbs on real estate development imposed by the Coastal Regulation Zone norms.

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai |
September 19, 2011 1:04:45 am

The technical committee formed on a directive from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to study the feasibility of coastal roads for Mumbai is now split down the middle over a radical suggestion by an expert member regarding land reclamation up to 100 metres off the shore,a move that will comprehensively alter the city’s coastline as well as the curbs on real estate development imposed by the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.

While the 12-member joint technical committee under the chairmanship of Municipal Commissioner Subodh Kumar is studying whether existing CRZ norms permit reclamation of land for roads linking South Mumbai with its far suburbs,architect Hafeez Contractor has made a pitch for a plan involving reclamation 100 metres into the sea to create an iconic expressway with 30-metre-wide green spaces on either side.

Sources said his grand design was not acceptable to many members,but the committee’s final recommendations could include seeking landfilling up to 24 metres off the shore for six-lane high-speed expressways along some sections of the coast.

“What is wrong with reclamation?” asked Contractor,speaking to Newsline and citing the example of global cities that have conducted extensive land reclamation — New York’s Battery Park City,Singapore and Shanghai.

“The CRZ law is appropriate for rural areas and beaches for protecting the coast. But for an urban city like Mumbai,whose very existence is the sea and coast,to have a CRZ law curbs development. No law is more foolish,” said Contractor. He added that he speaks not for developers but aspiring flat-buyers who pay “scarcity prices” for housing in Mumbai.

He said CRZ should not apply to a city such as Mumbai,especially when a significant portion of the island city stands on reclaimed land. “I see nothing wrong with reclamation for a public amenity,for a coastal road that will add to the city’s greenery. Since the 1950s and 1960s,there has been no large green space created for the island city.”

Contractor’s presentation to the committee said that while only 10 per cent of the city’s coast is currently accessible for the general public,this reclamation could add nearly 300 acres of seafront spaces that citizens could enjoy and a “green spine” for Mumbai stretching 15 to 20 km.

His presentation to the committee,which also includes representatives of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA),an advisor from the MoEF along with other expert members,was met with immediate opposition from several members who said moving the city’s coastline 100 metres out will seriously impact real estate development curbs and zoning under the CRZ norms.

“All prime properties along the Mahalaxmi Racecourse,for example,will be able to add built-up space and additional floors,” said a member on condition of anonymity.

Another expert member P K Das said the committee’s final recommendations are likely to involve adapting all three types of coastal road — sea link,roads on stilts and on reclaimed land — due to the vastly changing nature of the coastline at different spots.

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