The Maharashta State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) claims that the important projects worth over Rs 8,000 crore, such as the water transport on east and west coast of Mumbai, augmentation plan of Mumbai-Pune Expressway, decision about scrapping the contract of Worli-Haji Ali sealink, Bandra-Versova sealink await the final decision from the CM-headed Cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure. However, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, while interacting with journalists on Friday, said that the committee headed by him has not received any projects for approval or cancellation yet.
Sources from MSRDC told this newspaper that the six projects are awaiting clearance from the Cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure since more than six months. When questioned when the state Cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure will clear the projects, Chavan said, “To the best of my knowledge there are no projects on agenda before the cabinet committee sub-committee on infrastructure and so the question about clearing them does not arise. If any new projects come before the sub-committee, we will soon take a decision on the same.”
The six major projects on which the decision is long pending are scrapping contract with Reliance Infrastructure-Hyundai for Rs 4,550 crore Worli-Haji Ali Sea Link, constructing Bandra-Versova Sea Link having a price tag of Rs 4,045 crore, augmentation of Mumbai-Pune Expressway at a cost of Rs 3,665 crore, inland water passenger transport project for eastern (Rs 440.47 crore) as well as western coast (Rs 915 crore) of Mumbai and four laning of 700 km long Nagpur-Aurangabad-Sinnar-Ghoti-Mumbai road.
In the last Cabinet sub-committee meeting on infrastructure, which took place on August 2, the decision about the three projects of the Public Works Department (PWD), namely, Nagar-Nashik road widening, Chakan-Sikhrapur road widening and connecting Dighi Port with National Highway 17 (Mumbai-Goa Highway), was taken. However, the sub-committee took no decision regarding the six MSRDC projects. When questioned about the fate of the Worli-Haji Ali sealink, Chavan said, “That decision will be taken soon, but I personally give preference to the coastal road over the sealink, as the construction cost of coastal road is cheaper than the sealink.”
Transport Expert Jitendra Gupta said, “We have been reading that some important MSRDC projects await clearance from the Cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure. If the CM claims that no project or file is pending with his infrastructure committee, it’s a shocking statement. It only proves that there is a lack of coordination between the Congress and NCP-headed MSRDC.” Gupta added, “I feel that the decision on the project will be announced just before the code of conduct of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections comes into action. This might be a strategy to woo voters. With the current market condition, there are few chances that investors will come forward to invest in the major infrastructure projects. The best example is the failure of Mumbai Trans Harbour Link -- it failed to attract bidders.”
What do MSRDC officials have to say?
An MSRDC official, requesting anonymity, said, “On Saturday, we gave a presentation to the Chief Minister about the Water Transport Project and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway augmentation plan. He raised some points. We will work on them and send the project to the Cabinet sub-committee on Infrastructure again for final approval. We expect the CM to clear these projects in the next Cabinet sub-committee meeting.”
Projects awaiting clearance from Cabinet sub-committee
Mumbai Pune Expressway Augmentation plan
The Rs 3,600-crore old Mumbai-Pune Highway augmentation plan, which includes a nine km-long tunnel between Khopoli and Lonavala, will be placed before the Cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure next week. The plan for the tunnels, which alone will cost Rs 800 crore, is expected to get a go ahead from the cabinet committee. MSRDC has plans to complete the project by 2017, which will segregate the old highway and the Mumbai Pune Expressway (MPE) between Khopoli and Lonavala, reducing the journey time between Mumbai and Pune by another 30-45 minutes. The tunnel is perhaps the most accident-prone area on MPE. The tunneling project is part of MSRDCs expansion plans.
Inland Passenger Water Transport Project
The ambitious Inland Passenger Water Transport (IPWT) Project on the East and West Rs 1,350 crore has received the final clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest more than a month ago, but the final approval from the Cabinet sub-committee on Infrastructure is pending. The four laning of the 700 km long Nagpur-Aurangabad-Sinnar-Ghoti-Mumbai road is also awaiting clearance. The Bandra Versova Sea Link is also awaiting clearance.