Mumbai's first sealink may also be its last. A Joint Technical Committee appointed by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has recommended that instead of constructing sealinks, a coastal freeway be constructed on land that is reclaimed. This, it says, will help save Rs12,000 crore of public money, as sealinks are capital-intensive.
The committee has also virtually recommended scrapping of the Worli-Haji sealink, and suggested that a road should be built instead after land is reclaimed. These recommendations will also have to stand the scrutiny of the Environment Ministry, which is very careful about allowing reclamation of the sea.
"The cost of the freeway is estimated to be approximately Rs8,000 crore (till Marine Drive). The committee emphasises that this cost is far less in comparison to the cost of a sea link in the corresponding lengths estimated in the range of Rs20,000 crore," the committee said in its report.
The Committee has recommended reclamation of land at three places. The stretches are between Priyadarshini Park and Mahalaxmi temple, Haji Ali and Worli, and Bandra Bandstand and Chimbai village.
The state is contemplating reclaiming 100 metres into the sea, with the road height being close to five metres. The committee also discussed the soil it would need to carry out the reclamation. As per estimates, it would require 5lakh cubic metres of landfill per kilometre.
The committee has suggested that reclamation is a cheaper option, as it will cost only Rs75 per km compared to Rs350 per km for a sealink. The committee has also recommended that the state government needs to take up the issue with the Central government and ensure that the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules are amended for the coastal road. "The committee recommends that the appropriate amendments be made in the current CRZ notification, which does not allow reclamation for the proposed coastal road system," the report says.
The committee's recommendations are the latest addition to the frequent new plans that the state has been drawing up to connect the entire Western suburbs to South Mumbai through new roads running parallel to the city's coastline. There have been repeated flip-flops by the state government on how it wants to go ahead with the Western Freeway Sealink project which would have connected Versova to Nariman Point through sealinks.