MoEF asks state to tread cautiously on coastal freeway

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to not relax the sea's high tide line regulation to ensure that construction on the landward side doesn’t deface coastline

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) wants the state government to be cautious while constructing the coastal freeway, a 35.6-km coastal road along the city's western waterfront. It has categorically refused to relax the sea's high tide line (HTL) regulation so that haphazard construction on the landward side does not further deface the city's coastline between Nariman Point and Kandivli.

While discussing the plan with a delegation comprising Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, city MP Poonam Mahajan and senior officials in New Delhi on Saturday, Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar was very specific on the issues that he thought would be detrimental to the city's environment in view of the coastal road, said sources.

The minister also asked the state to work on safeguards to prevent damage to marine and public life. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is a nodal agency for the Rs 8,000 crore project.

Assuring proper implementation of MoEF recommendations, Fadnavis petitioned Javadekar for an early clearance. "The minister appeared positive on the issue and we will work on safeguards to make coastal road a reality," he said from New Delhi. Sources close to CM said the green nod was certain because the Centre has already approved the construction of the Shivaji memorial in the sea.

However, the HTL issue remains a cause of concern for MoEF, environmentalists and city planners because after a multi-lane coastal road is constructed, the distance between the HTL and geographical area up to which development activity is restricted (current norm under Coastal Regulation Zone rules is 500 metres from the sea's high tide line) would increase. So haphazard construction may happen along already-defaced western coastline.

Sources said some norms in CRZ were expected to be amended for constructing a coastal road, which till now does not have a mention in current rulebook.

What is the coastal freeway project?

The 35.6 km coastal road is planned along the west coast of Mumbai. It will originate from Nariman Point and end at the Western Express Highway at Kandivli. The multi-lane road will facilitate faster vehicular movement, which currently is a poor eight to 20 km/hour. The project will cost Rs 8,000 crore.

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