Another bridge to nowhere?

The Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL) was planned in the early 1970s. We are in the year 2015, and, four decades later, the government still cannot make up its mind on basic questions such as who will fund the project, who will build it, and whether an Indian company or a foreign agency should do so. The project was approved in 1996.

Since then, the estimated cost climbed to Rs 8,300 in the year 2000, finally hitting over R9,500 crore in 2015. Post-Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan, it was said that the Japan International Corporation Company (JICA) would fund the MTHL project. But now that the PM and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have returned from China, it is being said that a Chinese firm will fund and construct the link.

While the state government has said it will prefer the Chinese because they take decisions faster, how can it still say, more than 40 years later, that it is still in the process of awarding the contract for a project of such importance?

And, if the PM or CM visit any other country, will they consider awarding the project to that country as well?

The construction of the 22-km sea link has already been delayed by decades. Will the apathy of the bureaucracy and the government delay it even further? The 5.6-km Bandra-Worli Sea link took 10 years to complete and if we use that as a yardstick, even if the work on MTHL starts today, it will take another 40 years to finish the project.

To put this in perspective China built the 41.58-km Jiaozhou Bay bridge in four years. Yet, we claim that we can beat China in development.

If a government cannot make up its mind on a project as big and as important as this, then it seems infrastructure is not something it is serious about. Infrastructure requires proper planning and research, as such initiatives will cater to the needs of the city not for a year or two, but for decades to come and, in some cases, centuries.

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