The state government is not ready to give up on its plan of building coastal roads by reclaiming land.
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), the agency implementing the Western Freeway project or the Versova-Nariman Point sea link, has sent a proposal to the state environment department for building a coastal road from Worli to Nariman Point.
The proposal will first have to be cleared by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) that monitors all projects in coastal areas. It will then be forwarded to the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) for special consideration.
“We have got the proposal from the MSRDC and it will be brought before the MCZMA for consideration. But, the final clearance will have to come from the Centre,” said Valsa Nair Singh, state environment secretary.
The MCZMA may consider this proposal in its next meeting on Monday.
The Hindustan Times had reported on February 11 about the state government rethinking its sea links project and instead building a coastal road to connect the city.
The Bandra-Worli sea link was opened in 2009. The state had initially planned two more links — Worli to Haji Ali and Haji Ali to Nariman Point — but later decided to extend the link to Versova.
The state government believes that coastal roads are a far cheaper option and would reduce the cost of the project by one-third.
Keen to get the process underway, chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has even asked his officials to send a proposal to the MoEF.
If cleared, the state government plans to scrap the entire Western Freeway project to build a road skirting the coast from Versova to Nariman Point. This could even lead to building of a ring road around Mumbai.
However, building coastal roads through reclamation is not permissible under the new Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ) norms. But, it does allow building roads on stilts.
In their argument before the environment department, MSRDC officials are likely to argue that a coastal road will work as a natural barrier along the coast for the city. They will also argue that a coastal road on stilts will cause as much damage to coastal ecology as building a road through reclamation.
But sources in the MoEF said getting clearance would be an uphill task for the state government since it would mean giving the city a special leeway.
“The wait for clearance may take a long time because it requires making exception to the new CRZ rule immediately after it was notified,” said a senior MoEF official.
“The intention of a new CRZ notification was to have a transparent law and it was notified after series of discussions with stakeholders."
Recently, Chennai had failed to get clearance from the ministry for a coastal road and was asked to construct within the parameters of CRZ notification.