Coastal road may go to greater lengths

Technical committee report suggests extending it to under-construction Eastern Freeway in the south and Vasai-Virar in the north

If things happen as planned, this might go a long way in bridging Mumbai's north-south divide, at least in terms of transit. The coastal road report prepared by an 11-member joint technical committee has suggested linking the proposed stretch with the under-construction Eastern Freeway in south Mumbai and extending it to Vasai and Virar in the north. The panel has also kept the option open to augment the course further and connect it with other roads if needed in future.

Cutting costs: The state government is in favour of constructing a coastal
road instead of the more expensive and time-consuming sea links in
future. File Pic

The coastal road report that was submitted to the chief minister last week mentions a combination of tunnels, roads, minor bridges, widening of roads etc. to connect south Mumbai with the north and improve the traffic situation.

Missing link
The committee has suggested examination of linking the proposed coastal freeway that is supposed to end at Cooperage ground area with the starting point of the under-construction Eastern Freeway. This interlocking is being proposed by way of tunnel in the future. The 11- member committee came to the conclusion that "at present the existing local roads can cater to this movement".

"Connecting the coastal road with Eastern Freeway will be a good idea in future. The entire Eastern Freeway starts at south Mumbai, heading to Eastern Express Highway at Ghatkopar, including the Anik-Panjrapole Link Road (APLR). Once the entire project is ready, public transport and intercity buses towards Pune, Goa and Bangalore will be able to use the Eastern Freeway to avoid congested city roads," said an official, who was part of the panel.

Home stretch
The report also proposes extending the north end of the coastal road to far-flung areas outside Mumbai. "On the northern side, the coastal freeway system could be extended up to Vasai and Virar, requiring widening of existing roads close to the coast on Madh and Gorai islands and construction of bridges across intervening creeks at Manori and Vasai in future," it says.

As per recommendations of the report, the coastal road will terminate at Madh, Marve in Malad. However, constructing a bridge over Manori creek and extending the coastal road in future can be a difficult proposition as residents of Gorai-Manori belt have already shot down the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's plan of a bridge over the creek.

Coast not clear
Many residents of western suburbs and environmentalists are opposing the proposed coastal road on the western side of Mumbai. They feel that constructing the road would mean disturbing vital and sensitive coastal ecology as well as severely affecting mangroves. The residents also claim that the scenic vistas and recreational areas will be disturbed.

Speaking to MiD DAY, environmentalist Rishi Agarwal said, "Having a coastal road along the west coast of Mumbai is not a good plan as it will have an adverse affect on the mangroves and also the coastline. So we oppose it."

"Already there are very few open spaces left in Mumbai because of which people turn towards the beaches for recreational purposes. If the coastal road comes up then the scenic beauty of Juhu and Versova beach will also be lost," he added.

Environmentalists have also decided to create awareness among residents of the western suburbs regarding the negative impacts of the project through a road march that will be organised on February 2 on the occasion of World Wetland Day.

"We'll be writing to the Ministry of Environment and Forests to not allow the construction of the coastal road as it will destroy the wetlands and mangroves," said another activist.

Oh fish!
It is also said that the project may receive opposition from the fisherfolk community and small villages on the west coast of Mumbai. "The proposed 35-km long coastal road would adversely affect Danda and Chimbai fishing villages and fisherfolk. So there will be stiff opposition to the project," said Hitendra Vesavkar, an activist from Andheri.

Environmentalists and locals feel that having a sea link is a better option as it has very little environmental impact. However, the state government is in favour of the coastal road, which consumes less time and money, compared to sea links. Around Rs 10,000 crore will be required for the coastal road project, which is yet to get the centre's nod.

Due to the latest development the much-hyped and controversial Worli-Haji Ali sea link may never happen. According to sources, Reliance Infrastructure, who bagged the tender for the proposed sea link, stand to lose an estimated Rs 200 crore for what they have already invested or spent on the project.

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