A call from the Union Finance Ministry on Saturday left officials in the state secretariat puzzled. The ministry wanted to know whether the Mithi, blamed for much of the 26/7 damage, was a river or a drain.
A day earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised more money for the Mithi revival project and officials were in a celebratory mood. But that paused for a while when it became clear that the Centre wasn’t even clear about what the Mithi was.
“Finance Ministry officials said that if the Mithi was a river, then it could not be funded as an urban renewal project and the state may have to look for funding under some other scheme,” said a Mantralaya official on condition of anonymity.
State officials then had to convince the Finance Ministry that the Mithi was a 14.7-km river, but one which carried both sewage and stormwater discharge to the sea. Hence, they argued, it could be classified as an urban renewal project.
Now, this and other queries will need to be thrashed out and formal approval granted by the Finance Ministry’s Expenditure Finance Committee.
The Mithi River Revival Project, originally estimated at Rs 1,400 crore, had been pruned by the Centre to Rs 970 crore. “The ministry said the expenditure committee meeting on the Mithi project would be held soon. The Centre is likely to pay 35 per cent of the cost,” said Chief Secretary Johny Joseph. Vikas Tondwalkar, project director of the Mithi River Development and Protection Authority, added: “The report has been with the Centre for seven to eight months. We have answered all their queries and were expecting approval this week.”
Meanwhile, a day after the PM promised assistance for projects in Mumbai, the city got its second installment — Rs 100 crore — of urban renewal funds. This money will be used for the Centrally-funded Middle Vaitarna project, which will augment water supply, and the Mumbai Sewage Disposal Project, that will improve wastewater treatment and disposal of sewage.