Bandra residents have opposed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) ambitious Coastal Road project and feared that it will cause more problems, including irrevocable ecological damage, than provide solutions to the city’s traffic woes.
Irked citizens alleged that the civic administration did not hold a single public meeting on the project.
Close to 50 residents — led by Darryl D’Monte, president of the Bandra West Residents Association — were part of a two-hour meeting near Carter Road promenade on Sunday morning. D’Monte termed the project expenditure ‘wasteful’ and said it is a ‘willful destruction of nature in the name of development’.
In its bid to decongest arterial roads along the Western Express Highway, the civic body intends to construct the coastal road that will connect the western suburbs along the coast with undersea tunnels, roads on reclaimed land and elevated stretches.
Among other concerns, residents said the project will lead to an ‘unimaginable’ spike in pollution levels with over 200,000 vehicles plying on the 29.2-km coastal road. The coastal road will have eight lanes, with two dedicated bus lanes for the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS).
The project has been planned to be constructed in two phases.
In Phase-I of the Rs12,000 crore project, the BMC will construct the stretch from Marine Drive to Carter Road in Bandra. The north Mumbai phase is from Bandra to Kandivli. The road will also have a sea-link between Bandra and Versova, which will be built by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC).
“The sea which currently brings fresh air will emit toxic fumes from the coastal road. The project will destroy the thick mangrove cover. Mangroves are essential for a city like Mumbai, which is susceptible to inundation,” said D’Monte.
“In less than half the cost, traffic can be eased out by implementing a comprehensive transportation policy,” he said.
He added that a very small percentage of Mumbaiites use their own vehicles as opposed to more than 90% dependent on public transport for their daily commute. “Only a small percentage of commuters, living along the west coast, will use the road, making it a false solution to traffic problems.”
According to the civic body, the project will reclaim around 186 hectares of land, of which, 91 hectares will be developed as green space.
“Specific measures are being taken to protect the environment. We have planned to build the elevated roads on stilts along creek areas to save mangroves,” said a senior civic official.
While the BMC is expected to complete its tender process by March next year, the Union environment ministry is yet to clear the project.
‘Project will endanger mangroves and heritage’
Mumbai is already choked by traffic and is heavily dependent on its mangrove cover which works as a buffer against inundation.
The Coastal Road will lead to severe environmental damages, said members of the Bandra West Residents Association.
In the Sunday meeting held by the association, they highlighted that historical monuments, — inlcuding Mahalaxmi temple and Bandra Fort — waterfronts and public places might be lost
The project can damage the livelihood of all coastal communities, they said
The construction of the coastal road can lead to soil erosion along the coastline, they feared
What are the alternatives?
“While the project planners have failed to address our issues by not holding a single public hearing, infra projects such as the Metro II and Metro III or constructing Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) along the Eastern or Western Expressways can ease traffic congestion in the city,” said Darryl D’Monte, president, Bandra West Residents Association.