umbai is known for Sea, its huge coastal line, and also the development year by year. In this so-called development process, the city is turning into a concrete jungle that is worrisome; I am born here and also raised. In the past few decades, the city has drastically become static and breathless. For a shrinking city such as Mumbai, the pressure on infrastructure is much more than ever before which is why the strategic position of being near to the sea along with a vast coastline could seamlessly be leveraged. Those favouring the project strongly pitch for this world-class coastal road plan, which would ease connectivity across the city by serving as a ring road.
Mumbai is planning to build a coastal road along the western edge of the city. Most of the politicians and traffic experts claim this as the only solution to ease traffic congestion in the city. But the chronicle of urban planning suggests otherwise. We, the Mumbaikars, need to understand that the Coastal Roads will definitely cause more harm than benefit to the city of Mumbai in the coming years. The freeway will span a total length of 34 km with the first phase covering 9.98 km which is likely to be ready by 2022; the south section will run from Princess Street Flyover near Marine Lines to the south-end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL) while the north section will end at Kandivali in northwest Mumbai. There are plans to extend the road till Marve and Ghodbunder Road. The total estimated cost of the development has been projected at Rs 15,000 crore. The project plan had undergone a makeover from initially being just a bypass route to an 8-lane multi-modal transport route with bridges, Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) corridors across 2 lanes, a 3.4 km tunnel (from Khar Danda to Juhu) and interchanges at various locations like Haji Ali, Worli, Breach Candy Hospital, and Bandra. Moreover, there will be public spaces such as cycle tracks, promenades, pedestrian underpass, or foot overbridges at every 500 metres, advanced parking facilities, and recreational zones. The first phase will be built in three packages at a total cost of Rs 6,000-7,000 crore for which the BMC invited bids and around 17 firms had expressed their interest. The section from Haji Ali to Worli-end of BWSL will be developed by a joint venture between the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) and the Hyundai Development Corporation.
The 3.6 km route from Priyadarshani Park to Baroda Palace will be developed by CGGC (China Gezhouba Group Company Limited), a consortium of Dogus, Reliance Infra and NMDC; and another JV of ITDC and HEC. The contract for building the 2.7 km stretch from Baroda Palace to Worli Sea Face was won by a JV of India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and HCC.
The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai is the nodal agency for the three packages while the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation Limited (MSRDC) is developing the Bandra-Versova Sea Link part of the project. The project was faced with Opposition right from the day it was proposed in 2011 by the then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan who wanted the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation to consider the feasibility of building coastal roads rather than separate yet expensive sea links. The Environmentalists were against the project and mainly worried about the removal of several mangrove patches and forests land in the process. Some whizzes have also said that such roads might impact tidal circulation. While the BMC claims to redevelop green spaces spanning as much as 91 hectares area, the reclamation of 1.3 hectares of mangrove forests is a reality flashing before the eyes. Moreover, 186 hectares of land will be reclaimed for the project. These concerns are also echoed by the collective voices of the activists, the transport experts, and the urban planners who feel such a project is an expensive proposition catering to just 1.2 per cent of the private vehicle-owning population. Some architects and urban planners feel this will be an evident danger to the city coastline and the overall beauty of the island city. But looking at the brighter side, an integrated transport system benefitting the public-transport-using population is the need of the hour. The project has begun with the BMC clearances from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) as well as from the Fisheries Department, Coastal Management Department, Indian Navy, Coast Guard, and Coastal Police.
Other than the government, no one else is confident that the proposed infrastructure will bolster the creation of several central business districts (CBDs) around the corridor. No doubt it will also open avenues for many investment and housing opportunities, as more land parcels will be unlocked for real estate developments. Aimed at decongesting the Western Express Highway, the Coastal Road will also link the Ahmedabad Highway via Mira-Bhayander Road. The micro-markets which are most likely to see good results include Mira Road, Bhayandar, Bandra, and Versova, to name a few.
Work on the first phase of the Mumbai Coastal Road project, a proposed 34 km freeway running along the western coastline, began this November. An earnest effort by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to decongest the city roads, the ambitious infrastructure project received in-principle approval from the Bombay High Court in 2017 and a slew of clearances later from various government departments recently. Once completed, the project will redefine the way people will commute within the city and make Mumbai more prominent on the World Map, quite literally.
Mumbai city has one of the lowest per capita open spaces in the world. Given this scenario, waterfront areas like Girgaum Chowpatty, Juhu Beach, Bandra Bandstand, though varying in their size and quality, offer every Mumbaikar an opportunity to connect with the sea. But these Coastal Road now threatens to take away even this remaining access to the water and with that, it threatens to take away every Mumbaikar’s identity. Like the Coastal Road, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link project had promised the creation of new open spaces along the highway. The newly constructed promenade and open spaces are one of the most unreachable and unsafe spaces in Mumbai. The new open spaces along the Coastal Road will be accessible only by dark and dingy tunnels to cross the wide road and therefore, will be unsafe and almost unreachable. Given the track record of maintaining underground pedestrian subways within the city, the new tunnels shall be home to squalor and diseases. The massive grade-separated interchanges at Haji Ali, Bandra Bandstand, and Nariman Point will destroy heritage views and the connection of parks and open spaces to the sea. The Coastal Road infrastructure will be a huge physical barrier that will disconnect Mumbai’s residents from its coastline and the water’s edge and will take away the access to the coast for most people. Mumbai’s centuries-old connection with the sea will be lost forever.
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