The state’s public works department submitted a proposal to increase the height of the statue to 210 metres.(HT file photo)
The state’s public works department submitted a proposal to increase the height of the statue to 210 metres.(HT file photo)

Tall order for proposed Shivaji statue in Mumbai: Save marine life

Before giving final nod, the eco ministry panel wants the state to come up with a plan to protect biodiversity around the site.
Hindustan Times | By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 05, 2018 02:49 PM IST

Even as the state awaits the Centre’s final nod to the revised plan for Shivaji memorial, the government has been told to develop a plan to protect marine biodiversity around the site in the sea where the statue will be built.

According to the minutes of a meeting of the expert appraisal committee (EAC) under the environment ministry that were released on Thursday, while all previous conditions for environmental and coastal regulation zone remain unchanged, the ministry may bring in additional clauses focusing on marine conservation.

Scientists from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), who carried out preliminary environment impact assessment , of the site said the 15.96-hectare plot, where the project is proposed, is home to endangered marine species such as dolphins, turtles, stingrays, eel fish, crustaceans, porpoises, soft corals, gorgonian coral, algae, and planktons. HT had on December 24, 2016 reported that marine experts from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute claimed the rise in movement of boats from Nariman Point to the project site will lead to marine pollution, large-scale loss of fish catch and other marine biodiversity and damage the coast.

“The marine biodiversity management plan earlier recommended by the committee to cater to disturbances during various phases of the project shall be drawn up and implemented in consultation, and with approval of the state biodiversity board,” read the minutes of the meeting, adding, “A plan shall be drawn up with the fisheries department in consultation with the fisheries department for the management of fish and fishing operation during various phases of the construction of the project.”

A senior official from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) said, “The EAC has sent its recommendations on the project. A final nod is yet to be issued. It will come after a discussion on the recommendations.”

During a meeting on April 22, the state’s public works department submitted a revised proposal to increase the height of the statue to 210m from 192m, to make it the tallest statue in the world. HT had on May 2 reported the project was likely to get the Centre’s nod.

“We found some critical and sensitive organisms are present near the site, which means this area is rich in marine habitat. The [biodiversity protection] plan should entail regular assessment, threats to marine life and standard methods to protect it simultaneously during construction. This is only possible if expert organisations are roped in during construction,” said Baban Ingole, chief scientist and professor, NIO, who was the lead scientist for the EIA.

Vinayak Mete, chairman of the committee that oversees the implementation of the memorial project, said the new guidelines were not mentioned earlier, but will be adhered to. “The Centre’s recommendations will be implemented only after we send a fresh letter seeking permission to increase the height by another 2m. We will ensure scientists and marine experts are on board at every stage. As of now, no construction has begun and we have only signed a letter of interest with a private company, Larsen & Toubro, that will be the contractor,” he said.

Some of the other recommendations include the project to be dove-tailed with the final Coastal Zone Management plan to be drawn up by the state, which is expected to be submitted to the environment ministry this month, said state environment department officials. The state pollution control board will help the state decide the marine outfall of the desalination plant for the project and the latter needs to ensure there are no legal restrictions on project activities.

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