Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has finished reclaiming more than 60 per cent of the land required for the showpiece coastal road project from under the Arabian Sea.
The civic body is now targeting a deadline of July 2023 to complete the first phase of the coastal road, a pet project of the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
“Substantial work has happened in the last couple of months,” Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said. “17 per cent of the physical work stands completed as of now and the said coastal road will be functional in July 2023.”
The entire coastal road will stretch 29.2 km from Nariman Point in South Mumbai to Kandivali in the western suburbs, and is touted to change the way Mumbai commutes through decongesting of the western suburbs.
In October 2018, the BMC started work on the first phase from Marine Drive in South Mumbai until the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli sea link, estimated to cost Rs 12,721 crore. The civic body had originally hoped to complete the first phase of the coastal road by 2022.
Work on the project, however, was stalled for nearly six months after the Bombay High Court in July 2019 set aside the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance for the project. Eventually, the Supreme Court gave its go ahead for the project in December 2019.
CM Thackeray, who has very occasionally stepped out for field visits ever since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, last month visited the coastal road project site along with State Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde and State Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray to review the progress of the project.
Nod for additional reclamation awaited
The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government, led by former CM Prithviraj Chavan, had proposed the coastal road project as an alternative to an expensive network of sea links to connect Mumbai’s south to its western suburbs in 2011.
The project, however, seemed like a perpetual non-starter as it involved reclaiming land, prohibited under CRZ norms, as well as due to concerns over the adverse effects of reclamation.
The project was stuck until 2015 when the Union environment ministry agreed to amend norms after a meeting between then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.
According to data with the BMC, the civic body has so far reclaimed 175 acres, or about 70 hectares of land, from under the Arabian Sea and plans to reclaim 102 acres, or about 41 hectare more.
The civic body had earlier applied for a clearance to reclaim 90 hectares for the first phase of the coastal road, with plans of using 20 hectares for the road and the rest for parks, cycle lanes, jogging tracks, parking for buses and so on. The environment ministry granted the final CRZ approval for this requirement in May 2017.
The BMC, however, revised its requirement for reclaimed lands, and in October this year submitted an application to the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) to amend the 2017 CRZ clearance and reclaim an additional 21 hectares for the project — 6.5 hectares for the road and another 14.5 hectares for building a sea wall and a rubble mound structure as protection measures to prevent erosion from extreme sea waves and storm surges.
The MCZMA heard the suggestions and objections of various stakeholders in the project and earlier this month decided to recommend the BMC’s proposal to the Union environment ministry for approval.
Tunnelling to start next month
As part of the 9.98-kilometre first phase of the coastal road, the BMC will build 3.4-kilometre-long twin tunnels partially running under the sea between Girgaum and Malabar Hill.
Chahal said the BMC plans to start tunnelling from 7 January next year. The municipal commissioner said that a 400-metre-long tunnel boring machine, which he claims is “the largest ever in India with a diameter of 39.6 feet,” has been fully assembled on the reclaimed land for the tunnelling to begin.
As of November, the BMC has spent Rs 1,281 crore on the first phase of coastal road project of the estimated Rs 12,721 crore.