Coastal road will benefit only 7% of Mumbaikars: Experts

Environmentalists and transport experts say the proposed project will also have a negative impact on the ecology of the area and affect the livelihood of those dependent on fishing

While the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are keen on implementing the coastal road project, saying that it will solve the traffic congestion problem in Mumbai, environmentalists and transport experts disagree.

Participants and listeners sat for the talk at Bandra Gymkhana. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Participants and listeners sat for the talk at Bandra Gymkhana. Pics/Bipin Kokate

They feel that it will not be helpful as it will only cater to the 7 per cent of Mumbai’s population who travel by car. Environmentalists also point out that the project will have a negative impact on the ecology of the area. A discussion, ‘Coastal Road: a Boon or a Bane,’ was organised on the project at Bandra Gymkhana on Sunday.

Darryl D’Monte, chairperson, Forum of Environmental Journalists of India, said people should be taken into confidence
Darryl D’Monte, chairperson, Forum of Environmental Journalists of India, said people should be taken into confidence

Many urban planners, transport experts and environmentalists participated in it and voiced their opinions on the project. Shweta Wagh, an urban planner said, “The coastal road will cut off the city from the sea. It will erase historic places and disturb livelihood activities of people who are dependent on fishing."

Transport expert Ashok Datar gave a presentation in which he said rather than spend a huge amount of money on the coastal road project, more emphasis should be given on improving the quality of transport. Datar, who is from Environment Social Network and Mumbai Transport Forum said, “There should be more focus on AC suburban trains as they provide quicker transport.

No car or AC bus competes in speed, comfort, cost, nor are there environmental concerns with AC train travel. There should also be more focus on improving the present modes of transport. Compared to the Metro, surface rail is also cheaper to construct.”

Only car users will gain
Darryl D’Monte, chairperson, Forum of Environmental Journalists of India (FEJI) and International Federation of Environmental Journalists (IFEJ), also explained how the coastal road will have a negative impact on the environment, and how it will help only those who travel by cars.

He also pointed out that before implementing any project, the local people should be taken into confidence. “Only 7 per cent of Mumbai’s people travel by car and spending more than Rs 8,000 crore for the coastal road is not a good idea. Not only will a huge amount of money have to be spent on it, there will be a high cost for its maintenance also,” D’Monte added.

Environmentalists also pointed out how the coastal road will harm the ecology, coastline, historic places and impact the livelihood of people staying in gaothans and dependent on fishing activities. The proposed coastal road will require reclaiming of 175 hectares of land. Wagh said, “The entire stretch along Malabar Hill will have to be reclaimed and it may have a negative impact.

Haji Ali bay will be significantly reduced and Bandra fort, which is an archaeologically important place, will also be impacted. The mangroves patch near Carter Road might also face a problem.

Another shocking plan in the project is the area near Khar Danda fishing village, where fishermen park their boats, will be turned into an open space after reclamation of land. Where will fishermen park their boats?” The experts say over 50,000 people in Mumbai are dependent on fishing activities.

Lone voice in support
One of the speakers, Hrydhal Damani, urban planner, however, was of the opinion that there is a need for the coastal road to decongest traffic in the city and provide better connectivity. She was the only speaker in support of the project. “I am not sure whether it’s a boon or a bane, but the project was mentioned in the 1964 DP and it was planned to decongest the city. The estimated cost of the project then was Rs 24 crore,” she said.

The coastal road
A committee headed by former BMC commissioner Subodh Kumar had submitted the plan of a 35.6 km road between Nariman Point and Kandivli, which will run parallel to the coast. The plan, termed as the dream project of former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, is expected to be tagged as a national project and will cost Rs 8,000 crore.

The road will take off at the Manora Guest House, opposite the Mantralaya and pass through a tunnel between the NCPA and the Air India building. The Queen’s Necklace may have two more lanes to accommodate more traffic up to Raj Bhavan. There will be 18 exit and entry points on the coastal road. Of the 35 km, nearly 8 km will be on reclaimed land, part of which will be reserved as a green zone, banning construction work.

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