Metro stations along a coastal road, moving walkways to connect it to the shore, along with play areas as well as land for developing infrastructure along the road - These were some of the proposals presented by Dutch authorities and experts to the Maharashtra government when Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited Mumbai.
Impressed by the Dutch historical experience in reclaiming land, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has now sought the country’s help in reclaiming land by ‘building with nature’.
This fresh emphasis on reclamation, however, may now lead to tweaking of plans. The detailed project report for the coastal road, currently with the Ministry of Environment & Forests, makes no mention of such a Metro rail line running on it. The green nod, still pending, is expected soon. Similarly, the plan for the Metro 3 line has been finalised by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and tweaking it now may not be feasible, officials said.
Reclamation of land has traditionally been a subject of much controversy, with environmentalists seeing red at the very mention of the idea. The 1991 Coastal Regulation Zone notification banned such reclamation, citing environmental hazards. Aware of the debate that the subject of reclamation might trigger, Fadnavis and Rutte emphasised that any plan would be executed with the sensitive nature of such construction in mind.
“The Dutch have an expertise in reclamation and land management. We want their help and expertise to develop infrastructure in Mumbai, but in a sustainable way,” said Fadnavis.
The Dutch Prime Minister, on his part, said that the only way that the Netherlands has been able to survive is by carrying out reclamation in a sustainable manner. “If we didn’t have flood protection, many of our cities, including Amsterdam, would have been under water as they lie below the sea level.”
Pitching for similar reclamation in Mumbai, Rutte added, “The need for reclamation is very clear in Mumbai. We are very keen that we help this process with our expertise.”
Narinder Nayar, chairman of Mumbai First, said he is in favour of the Dutch plan. “We have believed that Mumbai has to engage in land reclamation off the sea, as most international cities have. While it may currently be restricted to the coastal road, there is no reason why we must restrict land reclamation to only the western coast in the city.”