The quagmire in which the proposed international airport at Navi Mumbai is stuck has effectively put on hold construction of the 22-km Mumbai Trans Harbour Link — a sea bridge that would link Sewri to Nhava and cut driving time to the satellite township to 25 minutes.
Four months have passed since the Urban Development Department (UDD) submitted a report reportedly favouring Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) over Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to build the bridge, but Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has not taken a decision on the matter.
Officials said on condition of anonymity that the clearance is subject to clarity from the Centre on the final location of the second international airport. That’s because much of the traffic on the bridge would be bound for the airport. If the airport site is changed, the justification for sinking money into the bridge project would be diminished.
There is a deadlock over the airport because, while the state favours the Navi Mumbai site, the Union Environment Ministry fears that the destruction of mangroves and the diversion of rivers the project requires would cause irreparable ecological damage. “It doesn’t make sense to commence work on the trans harbour link unless there is clarity on the new airport,” said a senior official.
There is a running feud between MSRDC and MMRDA on who will get to build the bridge. Both have staked claim to the project.
In April, Chavan deputed UDD Secretary TC Benjamin to recommend one of the two agencies. “I have submitted my report; it’s being scrutinised by the chief minister,” said Benjamin.
“I have the report and we are scrutinising it. Such decisions take time,” Chavan told Hindustan Times.
In private, officials said that until a decision on the second airport is taken, the chances of private players showing interest in building the bridge were slim.