The ambitious Mumbai coastal road project is one step closer to reality. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has issued a draft notification that amends Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules to allow land reclamation and mangrove cutting on the city’s western coast, clearing the decks for construction of the road.
The notification, officially issued on June 25, was made public on the ministry’s website, envfor.nic.in, on Monday. For 60 days from the date of the notification, citizens will be allowed to have their say on the project, after which the ministry will finalise the notification.
The goal of the proposed road from Nariman Point to Kandivli is to reduce traffic congestion, especially in the western suburbs, but transport activists warn that it could have the opposite effect by encouraging the use of cars instead of public transport.
The BMC, which will build the road, is meanwhile preparing to acquire the remaining clearances needed for the project to begin. Sources said it will take at least two to three years for construction to start. An amendment to CRZ regulations was necessary for the construction of the road on Mumbai’s ecologically sensitive western coast.
While the ministry’s notification amends CRZ rules to allow unhindered land reclamation and the hacking of mangroves, it mentions that reclamation must be done in a way that doesn’t affect tidal patterns. The ministry has also made it clear that no construction should be permitted on land between the existing high tide line and the road. Environmental activists feared there would be haphazard development on this land.
The BMC had said that three of the road’s seven sections have mangroves. The ministry’s notification allows these mangroves to be cut and built over, but says that three times the number of mangroves hacked must be planted elsewhere. However, environmentalists have expressed doubts about the feasibility of this plan.
According to the BMC’s initial design, presented to the ministry, 186 hectares would have to be reclaimed for the 33.2 km road. However, with the ministry permitting large-scale reclamation, this figure is likely to increase.