Mumbai Coastal Road: HC stops further land reclamation till April 23, 2019

Here are the facts, figures and upcoming developments in the Mumbai Coastal Road, slated to be Mumbai’s most ambitious infrastructure project

Update on April 11, 2019: A Bombay High Court bench of chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice NM Jamdar, on April 11, 2019, restricted the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from carrying out land reclamation for the Mumbai Coastal Road project till April 23, 2019 and also directed the civic body not to dump debris of the project in the Worli Sea-face area, until further orders.

The bench was hearing two petitions, one filed by NGO ‘Society for Improvement of Greenery and Nature’ and another by a group of residents. The NGO had challenged the BMC’s proposal to cut over 200 trees in Tata Garden area for the project. The civic body said it was necessary, to make way for an interchange at Breach Candy for the Coastal Road. Ankit Kulkarni, lawyer of the NGO which is run by Breach Candy residents, argued that an open plot next to the park, known as Scandal Point, can be used for the interchange and there will be no need to cut the trees. The court said the suggestion was logical. “This is a simple suggestion that will appeal to any logical mind. Why not consider this?” the bench said.

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The other petition, filed by a group of residents led by Shweta Wagh, had challenged the ongoing reclamation around Worli area for the project. There was no adequate environmental impact assessment for the project, it said. The project would irreversibly damage the coastal ecosystem and deprive the local fishing community of livelihood, it said. Advocates Kranti L and Gayatri Singh, the petitioners’ lawyers, claimed that the BMC had not obtained the necessary environmental clearances from the union government.

BMC counsel Anil Sakhre denied these claims. The apprehensions about reclamation work were unfounded, as reclamation is not always destructive and 70% of Mumbai stands on land reclaimed from the sea, he said.

The court, however, directed the BMC to maintain a status quo until the next hearing on April 23. “Whatever damage has been done to the coast is done but do not venture ahead into the area of the coast that you (BMC) haven’t touched till now,” the court said.

(With inputs from PTI)

Mumbai Coastal Road: HC seeks BMC’s reply on lack of adequate impact assessment surveys

Update on April 10, 2019: The Bombay High Court, on April 9, 2019, directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to respond to an experts’ body report, stating that it had not conducted adequate surveys to study the impact of the proposed Coastal Road project on the fisherfolk in the city and on the marine life along the coast. A bench of chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice NM Jamdar, directed the BMC to file its reply by April 23, 2019.

See also: Mumbai bridge collapse: BMC union condemns arrest of engineers

The counsel for the petitioners against the project, advocate Gayatri Singh, submitted a report of the Mumbai centre of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, stating that the ‘two-day rapid survey’ that the BMC claims to have conducted before starting work on the project, was ‘not enough’. “Two days (of) rapid survey cannot give a detailed account of any fishing activity, or the impact on such activity and on fishery resources,” the report stated.

BMC counsel Anil Sakhre contested the claim, saying the reclamation and construction work for the project would not have any adverse effects on the fisherfolk in the city and their source of livelihood. The bench, however, said the BMC must go through the above report and file its detailed reply.

(With inputs from PTI)

Mumbai Coastal Road: HC tells centre to list steps, to protect project-hit fishermen

Update on April 1, 2019: A Bombay High Court bench of chief justice Naresh Patil and justice NM Jamdar directed the union government counsel, additional solicitor general Anil Singh, to file an affidavit listing the steps that the centre was taking, to safeguard the livelihoods of fishermen affected by the Mumbai Coastal Road project. The affidavit should state whether the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was required to have had experts conduct a specific study, on the effect of the reclamation and construction work for the project, on the fisherfolk in the city and their source of livelihood, the bench said.

See also: Mumbai residents file PIL on damage to mangroves, due to road projects in Versova

Such a study was a condition imposed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest on the BMC, at the time of granting clearances for the project, which envisages building a 29.2-km-long road along Mumbai’s west coast, connecting Marine Drive in South Mumbai to Kandivali, a western suburb. The court directed the union government to file the affidavit, clarifying if such a condition still existed and if so, then, ‘whether the study was to be conducted simultaneously with the reclamation work, as it progressed along the proposed stretch of the road, or if the study should have been done before the work began’.

BMC counsel Anil Sakhre told the court that the Corporation would ensure that the fishermen affected by the project were duly compensated. He also said the civic body will ensure that any likely damage to the breeding areas of fish along the stretch was minimised. The HC, however, cautioned that if it was ‘not satisfied’ with the steps taken by the state and central authorities to protect the fishermen, it would have to ‘think about whether to let the project go ahead or not’. It directed the union government to file its affidavit by April 9, 2019.

(With inputs from PTI)

Mumbai Coastal Road: How can authorities begin work without determining its impact, asks HC

Update on March 20, 2019: The Bombay High Court, on March 19, 2019, questioned the state authorities on how they could begin work on the Coastal Road project, without determining whether it was going to adversely affect fishing communities and breeding ground for fish along the proposed road. A bench of chief justice Naresh Patil and justice NM Jamdar said while development was essential, it could not come at the cost of citizens.

The court also took strong exception to the apparent ‘lack of coordination’, among the agencies involved in the project. It noted that while the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) claimed to have all requisite data on issues like the number of people being affected and breeding ground for fish along the proposed area, the state fisheries department and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest did not have any information on the same.

See also: CIDCO to build a Rs 273-crore coastal road in Navi Mumbai

BMC counsel Anil Sakhre told the court that while a survey had been conducted in the Worli area, to identify people and livelihoods that would be affected by a portion of the Coastal Road project, a survey along the entire stretch of around 19 kilometres was yet to be conducted by the state fisheries department. The department, however, told the bench that it was inept to identify the breeding ground for fish along the above stretch and would need help from expert agencies under the central government. At this, the bench remarked that such a lack of coordination represented an extremely sorry state of affairs.

It said, ideally, the agencies should have conducted such a survey before beginning work on the project. The court also said the state must have a uniform policy, to assist and rehabilitate any person affected by the Coastal Road project. “Development should not come at the cost of the people,” the bench said. “Your (parties in the case) submissions also reflect a very sorry state of affairs. Can’t you coordinate without the court’s intervention? Why don’t you get together, hold a meeting and take all stakeholders into confidence? Is it the court’s job to get all of you together and send you into a meeting room for discussion on your own project?” the bench said. The court then directed the BMC to submit details of the fishing areas and breeding ground that fall along the proposed stretch and the number of people likely to be affected by the project.

(With inputs from PTI)

HC refuses to stay Mumbai Coastal Road project

Update on February 28, 2019: A Bombay High Court bench of chief justice Naresh Patil and justice NM Jamdar, while refusing to stay the Mumbai Coastal Road project on February 27, 2019, however, gave oral orders to the commissioner of the fisheries department to grant a hearing to the members of two fishing societies, which have approached the high court against the project. The societies opposing the 29.2-km-long road are the Worli Koliwada Nakhwa and the Worli Machimmar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society.

See also: CIDCO to build a Rs 273-crore coastal road in Navi Mumbai

The bench also directed the police to ensure fishermen were allowed to put up equipment, including nets, along the area marked for the road, until actual construction began. It was hearing a petition filed by the two fishing societies opposing the project, which claimed that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and state authorities had not conducted any public hearing or consultations with the fisherfolk from the city, before planning and approving the project.

(With inputs from PTI)

Fishermen move HC, opposing Mumbai’s Coastal Road project

Update on February 26, 2019: Residents of Worli Koliwada have filed a petition in the Bombay High Court early this month, alleging that the 29.2-km-long Mumbai Coastal Road project, work for which began in October 2018, was approved without consulting any member of the fishing community. The reclamation of land for the road, the petitioners have claimed, will impact the livelihood of countless fishermen in areas such as Worli, Khar Danda, Chimbai and several other places between Marine Drive in south Mumbai and Kandivali, a western suburb.

The road will run along the west coast of Mumbai and proposes to connect Marine Drive to Kandivali. The fishermen in the plea, who filed through their counsel Meenaz Kakalia, have argued that the project also does not have all the requisite environment clearances and that it was started merely on the basis of permission from coastal zone authorities. The plea was heard, on February 25, 2019, by a bench of chief justice Naresh Patil and justice NM Jamdar. The bench adjourned the hearing to February 27, 2019, as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) are yet to file their replies. The BMC and the MCZMA were issued notices earlier.

(With inputs from PTI)

The 29.2-km-long Coastal Road project is set to drastically change the commute, as well as public spaces in parts of Mumbai. Once completed, the eight-lane road will start from Princess Street Flyover in Marine Lines and end in suburban Kandivali. The road will involve construction of tunnels, interchanges, bridges, foot over-bridges and pedestrian underpasses along the route.

Construction timeline of Mumbai Coastal Road

The construction of the first phase of the Mumbai Coastal Road (the southern part), began in October 2018, after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) standing committee gave its go-ahead. The entire project is expected to be completed in four years and will be constructed in two phases – Princess Street to Worli and Bandra to Kandivali.

The start of the project was delayed multiple times over several years, owing to hold-ups in receiving the required permissions. Most recently, the BMC’s standing committee had held back the proposal to sanction the first phase, due to the cost escalating from Rs 6,000 crores to roughly Rs 12,000 crores, in the span of a year. In September 2018, municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta addressed the committee and stated that such a drastic escalation was attributed to factors such as an increase in fuel prices, the cost of steel, the amount reserved for biodiversity as per the Environment Ministry’s guidelines and a depreciation in the value of the rupee.

Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms in India do not allow reclamation of land and the construction of the Coastal Road required the relaxation of some these norms, as parts of it will be built on reclaimed land in south Mumbai. In a meeting held in June 2013, the union environment minister at the time, Jayanthi Natarajan, had expressed concerns that the reclamation of land could adversely affect the ecology of creeks and mangroves in the city. However, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) argued that the Coastal Road could provide protection from inland flooding, while also being a vital road link to ease traffic congestion.

In June 2015, the state government signed an MoU with the Dutch government, for technical co-operation in implementing the project, as the Netherlands is known for its environment-friendly reclamation of land and preservation of its seas. The Coastal Road project finally received clearance from the union Ministry of Environment and Forests, in June 2015.

See also: Mumbai Coastal Road promenade to overshadow Marine Drive walkway

Mumbai Coastal Road: Latest developments

The Mumbai Coastal Road project will give rise to the city’s longest promenades, overtaking the iconic walkway at Marine Drive in south Mumbai. The proposed promenade will be 6.4 kms long, stretching from Worli to Priyadarshini Park via Haji Ali in south Mumbai, a senior civic official said, on January 9, 2019.

The new promenade, which will be 20 metres wide, will have gardens, playgrounds, open auditoriums, cycle tracks, toilets and seating arrangements for senior citizens. The project also proposes three underground parking spaces for 1,625 vehicles. The walkway is proposed to be constructed on around 96.87 lakh sq ft of reclaimed land. Of this, 22 per cent of the area will be used for the Coastal Road’s construction, while the remaining 78 per cent of the land will be used for setting up public amenities.

On February 4, 2019, the Mumbai civic body announced the allocation of funds towards several major infrastructure projects as part of its Rs 30,692-crore budget for the financial year 2019-20. The BMC’s total budget estimates for the next financial year was 12.6 per cent more than the last fiscal. It has set aside funds for mega infrastructure projects, with the largest chunk of Rs 1,600 crores allocated to the Coastal Road project.

Mumbai Coastal Road: Fast facts

The Mumbai Coastal Road has been proposed as an alternative to the Western Freeway. In 2011, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan asked the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to consider building coastal roads, instead of capital-intensive sea links. A joint technical committee of experts was appointed and in a report submitted in January 2012, it recommended the building of a coastal road, instead of one more sea link, which would reportedly save Rs 120 billion of public money.

The proposed Coastal Road will have eight lanes – six for vehicular traffic and two for a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) corridor. The project will also include the construction of two underground earthquake-resistant tunnels – one under Girgaum Chowpatty and the other under Malabar Hill.

Opposition to the Mumbai Coastal Road

While the Coastal Road is being lauded as an engineering marvel that will ease traffic congestion in the city, it is being criticised and opposed by the large fishing community that feels the project will jeopardise their source of livelihood. On January 31, 2019, it was reported that the Worli Koliwada Nakhawa Matsya Vyavsay Sahkari Society alleged that the BMC had obtained a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Worli Koliwada Owners Community Welfare Co-Operative Society of Worli village – a group that does not represent the fishing community in any way – and had gone ahead with the project.

The fishing community has opposed the Coastal Road project, specifically the reclamation work near Priyadarshini Park, because they fear that its construction will adversely affect the quality and quantity of fish that will be available to them, to sustain their livelihood. Fishermen from Worli have also demanded that the gap between the pillars of the Coastal Road be increased to 200 metres, instead of the currently proposed 60 metres.

In 2018, a group of urban planners and architects called the ‘Bandra Collective’, released a number of animated GIFs that showed why building the Coastal Road would be problematic for the city. The group claimed that other than possibly being an eyesore that will dominate the city’s famed skyline, the entire project was not financially sound and would do little to ease traffic congestion.