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In Mumbai: Infra promises to keep in 2017

The new year could be a busy one if Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis wants to finish flagship transport projects before the 2019 polls...

Year ender 2016 Updated: Dec 30, 2016 15:12 IST
Swapnil Rawal
While the BJP government said it will ensure projects are given swift clearances from the state cabinet, many have been stuck, waiting for environmental approvals or facing opposition from locals.
While the BJP government said it will ensure projects are given swift clearances from the state cabinet, many have been stuck, waiting for environmental approvals or facing opposition from locals. (File photo for representation )

It was a year of ambitious announcements of mammoth projects to connect the city better; it was also a year of missed deadlines and delayed approvals. For the BJP-led state government, 2017 will be a crucial year – it came to power promising Mumbai a transport makeover and it is looking to retain that power with the 2019 Assembly elections around the corner.

Delays and more delays

While the BJP government said it will ensure projects are given swift clearances from the state cabinet, many have been stuck, waiting for environmental approvals or facing opposition from locals.

For chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, the challenge is not only to start the promised projects on time, but also complete them within the state’s own deadlines.

In 2016, only a handful of projects reached the implementation stage. On the ground, work on only three metro rail corridors took off, that too, in the second half of the year.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, implementing a majority of the projects, began building the 18.6km Dahisar-DN Nagar line and the 16.5km Dahisar (East) – Andheri (East) corridor in August.

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation, which is implementing the country’s longest and the city’s first underground Metro corridor, has awarded civil construction packages for the 33.5-km corridor. Currently, technical surveys are being conducted.

The BJP-Sena government has set an ambitious 2021 deadline for all Metro lines. Four years to go, there is only one 11.4-km Metro connecting three suburbs, Versova, Andheri and Ghatkopar.

What’s stopping us?

Sources said getting environmental clearances, dealing with locals who are against the project and getting loans are among the main challenges. Projects such as the underground Colaba-Bandra-Seeps Metro and the Navi Mumbai International Airport are yet to get the green nod.

A major hurdle for the Colaba-Seepz Metro is the plan to house a car depot at Aarey Colony—one of the last remaining green spots in the city. The National Green Tribunal, in an interim order, stayed any construction in Aarey. For the Navi Mumbai airport, there is the issue of cutting a 92-meter hill, and diverting a river. Getting a clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forests may delay the process.

As far as finances go, the state is already burdened with more than Rs3 lakh crore pending to the exchequer and has refused to stand as guarantor for loans for several big-ticket projects. This means implementing agencies will have to rework its strategy to secure loans from other agencies.

What you can expect in 2017

With CM Fadnavis looking to finish these flagship projects before 2019, when elections to the state Assembly are due, implementing authorities will have to start construction in 2017.

MMRDA sources said construction of five metro rail corridors will be in full swing in 2017. Work is in progress on three corridors, construction of two more is expected to start by the last quarter of the new year(see box).

After many delays, bids for the development of the Navi Mumbai International Airport are likely to be opened in January. The Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communications Expressway, an ambitious 710-km highway that is Fadnavis’ pet project, is facing land acquisition issues, but its detailed project report is expected to be ready by May. After that, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation will float bids for construction.

The MMRDA has invited initial bids for the Mumbai Trans harbour link — a sea link to better connect the city to Navi Mumbai, but a crucial loan agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency is yet to be inked. MMRDA officials said construction of the 22-km road between Sewri and Nhava Seva could start after the monsoon.

And, finally, what was until now one of Mumbai’s biggest infra project failures – the Monorail – could get a new lease of life when the 10.6km Wadala-Jacob Circle segment of the corridor is commissioned in June 2017.

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