India’s longest ropeway project — connecting Mumbai with the Elephanta Caves — will soon clear the final hurdle.
Sources have told The Indian Express that a meeting between Union Tourism and Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel and Union Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya was held recently, wherein the Culture Ministry is learnt to have assured the latter of “extending full cooperation” on the project.
Pitted as the country’s first and longest ropeway project over the sea, the initiative is to be executed by the Mumbai Port Trust, under the Ministry of Shipping.
The Elephanta caves, located on the Elephanta Islands, off Mumbai, was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1987, due to which clearance will have to be taken from Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), besides the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and the Ministry of Environment.
While all other clearances had already been obtained, the clearance from ASI (which functions under the Ministry of Culture) is yet to be received.
Sources said that post the meeting, the required approval, under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, is likely to come in soon, as “both the ministries have discussed all the details regarding the project”.
Even as ASI officials refused to comment on the issue, the organisation had earlier shot down a proposal to create a helipad at the site, thwarting the scope for heli-tourism in the area.
Once the final approval comes in, construction work on the Rs 700-crore project is scheduled to start by year-end. The project will take around 42 months to complete.
The 14-minute ride by 30-seater cable cars will give a major boost to tourism, said sources in the tourism ministry.
It also involves the installation of 8-11 towers mid-sea, each 50-150 metres tall. Discussions and planning for the project — similar to ones in countries like France, Singapore, and China — have been on for several years now, but the PPP project was finalised in 2018.
The caves see an annual footfall of nearly seven lakh visitors and are one of the must-visit places around Mumbai. Presently, it takes around an hour for the 10-km cruise from Mumbai and vice versa.
The 8-km ropeway will begin from Sewri in Mumbai’s east coast and end at Raigad district’s Elephanta Island.
The tentative fare is expected to be around Rs 500 for the journey both ways for Indians and Rs 1,000 for foreign tourists. The ropeway will also offer a view of mudflats on the east coast and the mangroves.
According to the project report prepared by the Mumbai Port Trust(MbPT), it expects around Rs 378 crore as annual turnover. The report reads: “We envisage the turnover to be in the region of Rs 378 crore.
This is based on an average of 20,000 people per day utilising the ropeway.” A recent report by MbPT reveals that “the proposed ropeway project will not have a significant impact on migratory birds, as the presence of the ropeway lines, structures do not pose barriers to migration.”