Freeway not far away
Environmentalists are worried about land reclamation, saying it would mean axing mangroves, lead to loss of biodiversity in the seas around Mumbai and would push the coastline further away.
A long-standing dream of Mumbai is set to take wings. The ambitious Western Coastal Road Project is finally being put in the fast lane, with construction likely to begin after monsoon. The proposed 29.2-km freeway that will run along Mumbai’s western seafront connecting Marine Drive in the south to Kandivali in the north has been divided into two phases. The BMC has shortlisted the contractors for two ‘packages’ of the first phase that will connect Marine Drive with the southern side of the Bandra-Worli Seal Link. “We expect the contractors to mobilise resources during the monsoon and start the work immediately after that,” Sanjay Mukherjee, additional municipal commissioner and in-charge of project, told The Sunday Standard.
The contract for the first package from the Worli end to Haji Ali was awarded to a joint venture of Hindustan Construction Company and Hyundai Development Corporation, while Larsen and Toubro was identified as the lowest bidder for the section of the road between Priyadarshini Park and Haji Ali.
The government had already given a green signal to Rs 7,000-crore worth Bandra-Versova Sea Link. When the entire work is completed, Mumbaikars can enjoy a hassle-free ride between the southern business districts to the western suburb of Versova.
Need for a rapid north-south surface transport had always been felt in Mumbai. But a section of the fishermen community has opposed the coastal road project due to fear of loss of livelihood. Fish workers’ leader Damodar Tandel said pollution of the sea had already hit small fishermen and the mega infrastructure project would completely drive them out of the business. Tandel is worried the fishing village at Khar Danda may lose their space for parking boats after the land is reclaimed.
Environmentalists, too, are worried about land reclamation, saying it would mean axing mangroves, lead to loss of biodiversity in the seas around Mumbai and would push the coastline further away.The planners point out that most of Greater Mumbai is sitting on reclaimed land. They say the high tide line would be maintained so that there is no adverse effect on flushing capacity of the creeks and the city is not flooded during monsoons.
But environmental activists like Darryl D’Monte aren’t convinced and argue that the project will only benefit motorists. “That’ just 7 per cent of the daily commuters. Does that justify spending of huge public money on projects like these?” he asked.Transport experts also feel the road may just end up shifting the traffic congestion points northwards along the 18 entry-exit points of the road. “Ease and comfort of the public transport needs to be enhanced, for which the government needs to spend more on projects like AC locals,” said Ashok Datar.
Another expert Sudhir Bdami said, “The plan appears to be to keep two lanes reserved for buses. But that won’t be of much use due to speed and accessibility constraints,” he said.
However, apart from the speed and the signal-free connectivity that the road promises to provide, the 91 acres of open spaces it would create around the city is one of the major benefits professed by the supporters of the project.
COASTAL ROAD PROJECT: WESTERN FREEWAY IN MUMBAI
Total estimated cost: I15,000-crore
Route: Marine Lines to Kandivli
Total length of the road: 29.2 km
The road will have eight lanes—4 lanes in each traffic direction with the outermost lane dedicated for Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS)
The project will reclaim around 164 hectares of sea land
The road will be built in two phases
Phase 1: South section
Route: Marine Lines (Princess Street flyover) to Worli (southern end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link)
The first phase further divided into three sections
Surface road measuring 3.7 km in length. This would be on the reclaimed land with sea wall
Underground 3.4 km-tunnel from Girgaum Chowpatty to Priyadarshini Park at the foot of Malabar Hills
Bridge measuring 2.8 km on stilts
Interchanges (grade-separated intersection, where one road passes over another, with ramps to connect them) at Amarsons Garden, Haji Ali and Worli with double-decker ramps. Walkways and gardens, too, will be developed along the roads leading to interchanges
Around 90 hectares will be reclaimed from the sea—20 hectares will be for the actual road and 70 hectares for the monitoring and supplementary facilities of the road
Construction expected to begin by September 2018
Project expected to be completed by 2022
Cost of Phase 1: I6,894 crore (approx.)
Phase 2: North section
Length: 19.22 km
* Route: Bandra (north end of Bandra-Worli Sea Link) to Kandivli
* The phase now also includes the 17 km Bandra-Versova Sea Link, to be built at a proposed cost of J7,000 crore
* In December 2017, Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation was given go-ahead by state govt to construct the Bandra-Versova Sea Link, which will continue northwards from the Bandra-end of the 5.6-km Bandra-Worli Sea Link. It would be part of the coastal road. Further extension of the road to connect to Ahmedabad-Highway is proposed