As the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has begun work on the south section of the proposed coastal road, a four-lane project that will start from the Princess Street flyover at Marine Drive and continue till Kandivali, Mumbai traffic would become more congested. Mumbai’s fishing community too is worried that this will not only eat into the sea but also their livelihood. While the pollution and unregulated construction have already damaged their sustenance, now the construction work will further hugely impact the breeding of fish.
Damodar Tandel, President of the Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samiti spoke to AV and expressed, “We have around 45 Koliwadas, 110 Gaothanes (village-like settlements), and 8 lakh of population in Mumbai. We are one of the original inhabitants of Mumbai and the Sea is our only source of livelihood. The Coastal Road Project, if implemented, can prove disastrous for our community as it will wipe out our culture. Already the Sea Link has diminished our catch, now if this Coastal Road comes up, nothing will be left.”
Narrating their misery, he further added, “Even the Court gave the verdict that the Sea is ‘land’ for the fishermen and if any developmental project takes place on the sea, the fishermen should be taken in confidence. We will appeal to the Court against this injustice and also hit the roads to protest. They cannot ruin our occupation like this. When PM Modi came to inaugurate the Shivaji Maharaj Smarak, we protested against it. We are going to bring together all the parties against the Coastal Road Project and organise a big protest against this decision.”
In the 1990s, the idea of 55 new flyovers was introduced in Mumbai, promising to solve all traffic problems within the city. However, in 2015, those flyovers have only increased the car addiction in Mumbai and the traffic is even worse than that in 1995. These big highways along the coast shall be redundant by the time they are constructed. Ninety-two per cent of Mumbai’s population travels by non-private vehicles. We need equitable measures of diverse public transit options to solve Mumbai’s mobility problems. The Coastal Road will only further add to the congestion, as moving people directly from one end of the city to another and emptying the cars into the dense southern Mumbai areas, with little infrastructure, will strangle the already congested city.
The south section of the Coastal Road, which is expected to be a stretch of 9.98 km, will start at the Princess Street flyover and end at the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. The stretch will split into four sections in between — Section 1 is from the Princess Street flyover to Priyadarshini Park, while Section 2 is between Priyadarshini Park and Mahalaxmi Temple. Section 3 starts from Mahalaxmi Temple and ends at Maa Hajjani Masjid and Section 4 ends at the start of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.
Whereas the north section is planned to be split into three sections — the Section 1 starts from the Bandra end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and ends at Carter Road, Bandra, where Section 2 starts that consists of a sea link bridge and ends at Ritambhara College, Juhu. Section 3 ends at Kandivali Junction. The north section is expected to be 19.3 km long. And the construction is said to be completed in four years.
“We are not against the Coastal Road Project as long as it doesn’t affect the Koliwadas. We won’t let the government even touch the Koliwadas. As far as the environment is concerned, the Ministry of Environment should take care of that thoroughly,” MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande stated.
Moreover, by encouraging more people to drive to work, the city will be the target of unprecedented pollution from vehicle use, which will choke the existing streets and neighbourhoods. Maharashtra already has one of the highest numbers of death on roads. The new Coastal Road will lead to unprecedented deaths on the roads of Mumbai, as speeds of 90 kmph with Indian driving habits will be lethal for most people.
Loss of mangroves would be another crucial issue, as this city is not ready to bear heavy rains. Its drainage systems need urgent attention, Metro work has created chaos, and the city nallahs are clogged. Apart from these, the present damages of metro work, the coastal line would eat up remaining safety, by cutting mangroves in the sea, coastal challenges would be destructive.
Clearing the air about city’s upcoming transport facility, Maharashtra Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam exclaimed, “The Coastal Road Project is not going to have any harmful impact! We are planning it in such a way that whatever deforestation may occur due to this, will be compensated by afforesting the surrounding areas and thus, it will not harm the livelihoods of the fishermen whatsoever. We have no intention of harming the interests of the Agri-Koli community.”
Contradicting Kadam’s statement, NCP Mumbai President Sachin Ahir asserted, “When Uddhav Thackeray inaugurated the Coastal Road Project, the BMC Standing Committee itself, even the Chairman, had no idea that such a thing has been initiated. The planning of this project itself is wrong and can result in a disaster. Though the Shiv Sena claimed it to be a “Dream Project”, they should have taken the local fishermen in confidence. All they have done is to just publicise and make a pompous show out of the project. All the Environmental experts have claimed that the project will have a negative impact on the coastal areas.”
Mumbai’s fishing community is worried that this will create a challenge to their survival. According to the fishermen community, construction activity in the sea will impact the rearing of fish. Presently, only 20 per cent of their catch includes fish. The rest is garbage thrown in the sea; already the seafood source is scanty and not adequate. The garbage in the sea would increase with costal roadwork and metros. The greenery of the city may get compromised, already Mumbai is much polluted and now by cutting trees and mangroves, the city will invite more health hazards.
Anti-pollution crusader and Awaaz Foundation convenor Sumaira Abdulali exclusively had a chat with AV. She said, “I think it’s an environmental disaster to have this Coastal Road. The marine life and the quality of Mumbaikars’ lives are the main reasons that this reclamation has been banned all these years. The coast is one area that defines the feature of Mumbai. As the project will bring change in the coastline with everything concrete, we are going to lose the natural beauty as well as the natural fisheries. In fact, no studies have been done on how this project will affect the surrounding areas of Mumbai, further down, what will happen if the tide patterns change!”
Abdulali further explained, “Moreover, as per the project reports, the government is supposed to plant five times of the number of mangroves as compensations. My question on this is, when you reclaim land from the coastal areas, the water level changes and hence, the inter-tidal area in which mangroves grow will no longer be there. The area will then become like Marine Drive where there will be breakers or some way to stop the sea coming in and the level of water is much deeper.”
“So, where are these five times of present mangroves going to be planted? I believe, even the same number of mangroves cannot be replanted! The entire countryside will become susceptible to risk,” she asked.
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