In the planning stages for over three decades and after repeated false starts, the Sewri-Nhava Sheva Mumbai Trans Harbour Link got a push with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) granting the project an in-principle approval.
The project, viewed as a vital connector to the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport, was stalled for want of environment clearance for several months.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “As soon as the notification for the final clearance is in, we will close the loan agreement with JICA for the trans-harbour link. I had earlier said after my Japan tour that we will issue tenders for the project in March. I reiterate that by March we will start the tendering process for the project, and plan in such a way that the project is completed in 2019.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently taken up the project for discussion with state functionaries, which led to fast-tracking of the approvals, Fadnavis added.
A senior state government official who did not wish to be named said, “There is one condition that the state will have to fulfill before the ministry grants a final clearance. However, it is just a procedural formality and we hope to complete it soon.”
For final clearance, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which is the state implementing agency for the project, has to make a fresh application for tribal rehabilitation in the forest area that will be impacted by the project as per the Forests Rights Act. This is to certify that the project will not impact any tribal life in the forest areas that it will pass.
The MMRDA has already communicated to the environment ministry there is no tribal life along the alignment of the 22-km Sewri-Nhava Sheva link, but will now have to follow due procedure as per the Forests Rights Act to state the same.
The official added that the government is looking at starting the tendering process for construction of the Rs 12,000-crore trans harbour link in March on a cash contract basis. Three earlier attempts to bid out the project have drawn a blank.
Simultaneously, MMRDA is in the process of working out a formal loan agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to fund the project.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Maharashtra government has been aggressively trying to fast-track the trans harbour link, touted the country’s longest sea link, as the Navi Mumbai airport is already under tendering. The government wants to have the link across Mumbai’s harbour to the airport ready by the time the airport commences operations so that it can be made easily accessible to fliers.
The project has faced several green hurdles with its alignment proposed to pass through mudflats at Sewri on the island city and those on the mainland side at Nhava, as well as the Thane creek. Environmentalists have flagged potential adverse impacts of the project such as destruction of the mudflats, coercing Mumbai’s seasonal visitors, the flamingos, to search for other homes with construction activity likely to dent their natural habitats.
2019 deadline for coastal freeway
The state government has set a target of 2019 for completion of the ambitious coastal freeway from Nariman Point to Kandivali.
“The project had become an annual feature in the government’s functioning and wasn’t moving forward at all. But now, within one year, all approvals required from the Union government to start work on the coastal road are in. Now it’s the state government’s time to double the pace. We will ensure that by 2019, my car runs on the constructed coastal freeway,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said. The Union government on Wednesday released the final notification amending Coastal Regulation Zone norms to permit reclamation for a coastal road.
Besides setting a deadline for the coastal road, Fadnavis also vowed to set up the state housing regulatory authority by February this year.