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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Explained: Why does BMC want more land for Mumbai’s Coastal Road Project?

In order to ease the flow of road traffic, the BMC has proposed to construct a 9.9-km coastal road from Marine Drive to Worli or the south-end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link at a cost of Rs 12,700 crore.

Written by Laxman Singh , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai | Updated: September 9, 2020 7:14:35 pm
Construction work for the Coastal Road underway at Worli Seaface, Mumbai. File/Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) submitted in the Supreme Court that it needs an additional 21 hectares of land over and above the 90 hectares that it had planned to reclaim originally for the Coastal Road Project in Mumbai. The municipal corporation’s submission came after the Court, in a hearing on August 17, warned the BMC against excess reclamation for the project. The Court is hearing BMC’s appeal against a High Court order quashing the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance to the project.

What is Mumbai’s Coastal Road project?

In order to ease the flow of road traffic, the BMC has proposed to construct a 9.9-km coastal road from Marine Drive to Worli or the south-end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link at a cost of Rs 12,700 crore. The project entails reclamation of land from the sea. As per the initial plan, only 90 hectares were to be reclaimed. Of this, 20 hectares would be used for the road while the remaining reclaimed land would house parks, cycle lanes, jogging tracks, promenades, and open green spaces – a luxury in Mumbai.

Why does BMC want to reclaim more land in the sea for the project?

The BMC has filed two affidavits – on August 28 and September 7 – before the Supreme Court informing that they will require additional reclamation of six hectares and 15 hectares respectively for the Coastal Road Project, taking the total reclamation requirement from 90 to 111 hectares. The BMC has said that the additional reclamation would be required for construction of partially submerged inclined sea-wall along the 9.98-km coastline. The construction of the sea-wall has already begun. The sea-wall is crucial for securing the road from wave impacts, floods and erosion.

Why are citizens and environmentalists opposed to the additional reclamation?

Activists say that the additional reclamation would impact marine biodiversity and also have an effect on fishing areas in the vicinity. The CRZ clearance granted for the project in May 2017 was for only 90 hectares. Also, a study done by National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) for the project to find out impact on waves, high tide line and seashore was based on 90 hectares.

Citizens have pointed out that since there is a change in the original plan, the civic body should go once again for public consultation as there will be new development. They also questioned lack of transparency in plans of the project and accountability as the civic body itself is not sure on how much exact reclamation will take place. Environmentalists have argued that the project required Environment Clearance (EC) under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2006, as it is an area development project.

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Why did the BMC move the Supreme Court?

In February and March 2019, a bunch of petitions were filed against the Coastal Road Project. After the hearing on July 17, 2019, the Bombay High Court had quashed the CRZ clearance granted for the project and directed the BMC to get Environment Clearance under the EIA Notification 2006. The High Court had termed the coastal road as an ‘Area Development Project’ and said that it is necessary to have EC clearance for such projects. Following this, the BMC approached the Supreme Court. In December 2019, the apex court stayed the Bombay High Court order and allowed the BMC to continue only road work. The matter is being heard in the Supreme Court.

How much work has been done so far?

According to the BMC, so far 52.35 hectares has been reclaimed and as per the new plan, 58.65 hectares is yet to be reclaimed. While carriageway along with median, promenade, side-walk will be built on 38.45 hectares, rest areas will be used as open spaces, bus terminals, sub-stations etc. The Coastal Road project has a linear carriage-way of approximately 9.98-km and inner-change carriageway of approximately 15.6-km running along the western coast. It will be built on reclaimed land, elevated road, under sea tunnel and stilt roads.

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