Mumbai: Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari today suggested a submarine tunnel instead of 22-km long bridge in the ambitious trans-harbour link project, amid murmurs of his differences with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on this issue.
Speaking at an event here in the presence of Fadnavis, Gadkari said: "There are many plans which have come forward. The plan to construct a sealink was first prepared when I was a minister in the state government in 1995-2000. But various alternatives have come forward now."
There have been media reports that Gadkari and Fadnavis have differences of opinion on many projects in the city, especially the Rs 8,800-crore Mumbai Trans-harbour link (MTHL) which will link the city with the country's largest container port JNPT across the harbour on the eastern seafront.
Terming reports of his differences with Gadkari as baseless, Fadnavis also said there are alternatives that can be discussed, while Gadkari said the Centre will accept the final decision on this issue of the state government which is executing the project.
Gadkari, during his tenure in the state government, had a reputation for not indulging in politics when it comes to development work, Fadnavis said.
Gadkari cited 'pushback' technology used for connectivity between the Dutch port of Rotterdam and Belgium, where they have built a tunnel which is cheaper than a bridge.
An underwater tunnel will also be better from the aesthetic perspective, Gadkari said, adding he wanted to exploit the full tourism potential of the city's coastline.
"I feel the sea coast of the city should stand out prominently and a bridge should not obstruct the vision," he said.
The state officials will soon have a meeting with Gadkari in this regard and come to a conclusion, the Chief Minister said, stressing that the governments at the Centre and the state were working together for infrastructure development. The last estimated cost of MTHL was Rs 8,800 crore.
It will be 22 km long: a 16.5 km long bridge across Mumbai harbour and 5.5 km long viaduct on the Sewri and Nhava sides. In the past, groups including the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries had evinced interest in the project.
Fadnavis said the Mumbai Port Trust and the Maharashtra Maritime Board will be soon signing a memorandum of understanding to develop the eastern waterway project for passenger movement with an investment of Rs 120 crore.
He rued that the state had neglected port development in the recent years and said there was a need to increase the capacity ten times. Without naming the neighbouring Gujarat, he said the states which created capacities in the port have benefited.
Gadkari and Fadnavis were speaking after inaugurating a high-speed passenger boat service between Bhaucha Dhakka and Mora on the eastern waterfront which is an alternative to the existing, age-old service, and will cutt travel time by half to 30 minutes.