The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation's (MSRDC) mass water transport project finally seems to be sailing ahead.
The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority, in its last meeting held in July, cleared the proposal for the West Coast project – one of three projects – and recommended it to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) for final approval. The West Coast project aims to link Nariman Point to Borivli via catamarans and hovercrafts.
As part of the project, terminals will be set up at six locations — Nariman Point, Bandra, Juhu, Versova, Marve and Borivli. The terminals at Nariman Point and Borivli will be larger, spread across 40,000 and 32,000 sq ft respectively. Earlier this month, the MSRDC had awarded contracts for building terminals.
The project also includes berthing facilities for at least eight catamarans and two hoverports for terminals and requires considerable dredging.
The terminals at Nariman Point, Versova and Borivli will come up in water and will be have to be built on stilts. Environment clearance is thus vital for the project to go ahead.
However, the coastal nod is conditional to MSRDC fulfilling eight requirements. For instance, no commercial complexes, such as restaurants or shops, can be built on the terminals at any of the six locations and the terminals will have to be built on stilts if the area falls under the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ).
Additionally, around 1,000 sq m of mangrove area in Borivli and Versova is likely to be affected by the project and the MSRDC will have to replant five times the affected mangrove cover. It will also have to take the high court's permission before carrying out construction in mangrove areas.
The state coastal body has also asked the agency to speak to local residents and communities and create awareness about the project before going ahead with it. The MSRDC will have to study the impact of erosion on the coastal areas owing to the project.
MSRDC officials are confident the regulations will not be a problem as the project is government funded.
The agency has planned three key water transport projects linking the city and surrounding areas through sea. The East Coast project aims to link Ferry Wharf in south Mumbai to Nerul, using catamarans and hovercraft. The West Coast project will connect Nariman Point to the Borivli, with several halts. The third is a proposed roll-on, roll-off service comprising large ferries to transport passengers and heavy vehicles from the island city to Mandwa on the mainland.