Japanese agency refuses to change alignment of Trans-Harbour Link
MMRDA had informally suggested it be shifted a few metres south at the Sewri end, so there is no opposition because of risk to the flamingoes and mudflats
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has clearly told the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), that now it won’t allow a change in the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL) project’s alignment. The planning authority had informally suggested that the alignment at the Sewri end be shifted a few metres south, so that there is no opposition to the Rs 17,000-crore project because of danger to flamingoes and mudflats.
More that 40,000 flamingoes visit Sewri during winter, and environmentalists say that the current alignment might affect them. File pic
The planning authority has said that it would follow majority of the mitigation measures suggested to it by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and if there are any more suggestions, then NGOs and environmentalists can come forward. JICA will be funding around R15,000 crore of the ambitious MTHL project.
Additional Metropolitan Commissioner Sanjay Khandare said, “We had a meeting and we discussed whether we could change the alignment of the MTHL on Sewri side, to which JICA officials clearly said that there should not be a change in the alignment.”
Though the planning authority had always been saying that there won’t be any change in the alignment of MTHL, MMRDA was looking for an option of taking the alignment at Sewri towards the south by around 500-1,000 metres, so there is no problem to the project. Environmentalists have been opposing the project saying that it will have a negative impact on the flamingoes that come to Sewri and also on the ecology at the mudflats.
Earlier BNHS had opposed the project, but a study was conducted and mitigation measures were suggested to MMRDA, which the planning authority has accepted. “We have already made it very clear that we are pro-environment and all the mitigation measures suggested by BNHS would be followed. We would also be taking help from BNHS to implement the measures, and other NGOs who want to help us or suggest anything are most welcome,” added an MMRDA official.
More than 40,000 flamingoes visit Sewri during winter, and environmentalists have been of the opinion that the current MTHL alignment might have negative impact on them and more than 150 species of birds found at the mudflats.
An environmentalist said, “We are not at all against development, but the current MTHL alignment would have a negative impact on the environment which we wont allow, and so we will oppose the project during the construction period.”
MMRDA officials also told this newspaper that the report that was submitted by BNHS to them also stated that the construction of the bridge spans at the mudflats at Nhava Sheva end and Sewri end, should be done in minimum of 15 and maximum of 18 months and if there is opposition during the implementation, the same cannot be met. So they are a bit worried.
After the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz metro line three, it seems that the fear of opposition to the ambitious Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link Project connecting Sewri with Nhava Sheva, seems to be haunting the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). While it has agreed to implement the majority of the mitigation measures suggested by BNHS, there are chances that independent experts and environmentalists might come forward with their demands and oppose the Rs 17,000 crore project during its implementation. The planning authority is worried this will not only delay the project, but might accelerate its cost further.
In the month of October 2015, BNHS had submitted a report to MMRDA about the mitigation measures, and also that the current alignment is not acceptable and it should be moved around 400 metres south from the existing starting point of the proposed MTHL at Sewri.
While BNHS is known for its good work in the field of wildlife and environment conservation, the planning authority taking its help has not gone down well with some environmentalists and groups. It is said that they might oppose the project if the alignment is not changed. “We have agreed to the majority of the mitigation measures that BNHS has suggested and we might even take their help in future. Funds might be given for the same and this seems to have not gone down well with some NGOs and environmentalists,” said an MMRDA official.