The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation may be pushing for quick environment clearance to get its showpiece coastal road project off the ground, but the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has pointed out basic shortcomings that could further delay the project.
In a letter dated July 22, the MoEF said the coastal road proposal recommended to the ministry by Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has several deficiencies - the lack of a disaster management plan, issues with some environment impact reports and no approval from the state and central pollution control bodies and the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) maps.
The Rs12,000-crore coastal road along the city’s western coast will connect south Mumbai and Malad and is being positioned as a project that could change the way Mumbai commutes. But it has been controversial as it requires reclamation of land from the sea and mangroves.
“The MoEF has as good as sent the proposal back to the drawing board. The BMC had not met even the most basic compliances required for an environment clearance,” said a senior state government official, who did not wish to be named.
But a senior BMC official said the civic body had completed and sent the proposal to MCZMA with all required documents, but these weren’t forwarded to the MoEF.
“What has to go in a proposal for environment clearance is part of a standard template and our proposal was submitted according to this template. It wasn’t forwarded in its entirety,” the official said. The BMC will send the comprehensive proposal to the MCZMA again and repeat the process, he said.
MoEF’s letter also said reclaiming land to develop a coastal road is permitted only in exceptional cases, and the BMC’s proposal does not justify this. “There is no mention of the circumstances under which the government has proposed to undertake this project,” the letter, signed by an MoEF scientist states.
The ministry also rapped the MCZMA for not appraising the proposal comprehensively. The BMC was advised to consider a tram service instead of its Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) plan, consult the National Institute of Oceanography for construction near Irla nullah as the coastal road is likely to have an impact on nearby habitats of traditional coastal communities, and formulate a project specific disaster management plan and a standard operating procedure for its implementation during construction and operation.
“Pending this examination, the MCZMA should have not forwarded the project to the ministry,” the letter read.
“It is evident from the specific conditions prescribed by MCZMA for the project the proponent has not yet prepared the disaster management plan, standard operating procedures for the construction and operation phase, and likely impacts on habitats of traditional coast communities near to the projects have not been analysed thoroughly.”
The BMC’s proposal for an environment clearance also lacked CRZ maps showing high-tide and low-tide lines, maps covering a 7km radius around the project, and those indicating ecologically sensitive areas around the site, the letter pointed out. The BMC has so far invited expressions of interest from contractors to construct the freeway from Princess Street on Marine Drive to Worli, to meet the Bandra-Worli sea link.