After the state environment department gave an environment clearance with regard coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms for the 9.5km Versova-Bandra Sea Link (VBSL), citizen groups have raised objections regarding ill-timed public consultations and numerous traffic woes due to the project.
The Rs7,500-crore sea link is part of the coastal road project that will link Nariman Point and the northern suburbs. The proposed sea link will begin from the Bandra-end of the 5.6km Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL).
As a part of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), a public consultation with local residents and fishing community was held in 2011, and it said, “The preferred alignment has no objection by NGOs and local people as there is least impact on environment.”
On Monday, members of the Bandra West Residents Association (BWRA) and Apna Mumbai Abhiyan (AMA), a consortium of 28 city-based NGOs, said they do not recall any public consultations and rather than relief from traffic congestions, the projects will lead to more discomfort for citizens.
“This is a shocking case of government agencies colluding to display what is a private transport project as a public transport one. Such a project is a need for only 2.5% of Mumbaiites who own cars,” said Darryl D’monte, president, BWRA. “Two areas – near Otters Club, Carter Road and at the junction of Nepean Sea Road and Warden Road - are already very congested. By building a connector at this site, the two lane road will become one lane, which will lead to complete chaos.”
With almost all the clearances in place, the state intends to complete the project — part of the ambitious coastal road project between Nariman Point and Kandivli — by 2020.
City-based lawyers said such projects should have a progressive approach rather than a regressive one. “The terms of reference and project details came into being in September 2016 but the public consultation was kept in 2011. It does not make sense to have a public hearing five years before people are aware about the environmental effects of such a project,” said Zaman Ali, environmental lawyer.
The MSRDC has already secured the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance from the central agencies for the 9.5km sea link. The final environmental clearance is awaited from the Union environment ministry.
Additionally, the project plans to save mangroves as the most areas along the road will be built on stilts. “There would be loss of about 200 sq m mangroves and 50 sq m temporary loss during construction in Versova. MSRDC has proposed five times mangrove plantation for the lost mangroves,” read the EIA report.
State government officials said separate agencies will be giving specific clearance regarding mangroves. “We have only given CRZ clearances and directed that no mangroves should be destroyed. Permissions regarding forests and wildlife are yet to be taken by MSRDC,” said Satish Gavai, principal secretary, state environment department.
“While the traffic issues have to be addressed by MSRDC, the project will reduce the burden for commuters travelling from south Mumbai to Versova. In the larger scheme of things for Mumbai, it is a highly desirable project by reducing traffic in the Island city and net impact on environment will be reduced as air and noise pollution will decrease,” said Satish Gavai, principal secretary, state environment department.
Traffic experts said the project might increase problems for commuters using private vehicles. “After the Bandra-Worli Sea Link was constructed, it helped ease traffic on internal roads like Cadell road for a few weeks but subsequently went back to heavy congestion. The increase in vehicles in this case will further worsen the problem,” said Ashok Datar, traffic analyst.