In what may be termed as a bizarre demand, the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has asked the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to pay approximately Rs 157 crore as ‘air space’ charges for the Mumbai-Trans Harbour Link which will be passing over MbPT waters.
Confirming the same, a senior MMRDA official requesting anonymity said, “The MbPT have demanded Rs 157 crore from MMRDA as ‘air space’ charges due to the MTHL passing over MbPT waters. We seriously don’t know how any agency can demand money for air space and will discuss the matter with central government.” The demand left MMRDA officials in a state of shock. While the MbPT takes a premium for the pipelines and other cables which pass below its waters, is has justified the demand for Rs 157 crore on the same grounds as ‘air space’ charges.
MMRDA needs 9.9 hectares of Port Trust land on a permanent basis and 15.83 hectares of land on a temporary basis for a period of seven years. A request for the land was sent to the Port Trust by MMRDA. In October, the Port Trust gave an in-principal approval regarding the same. While the MMRDA sees no problem in paying for the land, which will be used for the casting yard, it will not pay for the air space.
In the letter addressed to the Ministry of Shipping (ports wing) by MbPT, the premium regarding the ‘air space’ charges has also been mentioned. The letter states that MMRDA will have to give MbPT an amount of Rs 279 crore as rental charges for using port trust land for a period of 30 years for the project.
“Before demanding money from us, MbPT should understand that they are the ones who will benefit when the MTHL bridge is completed as it will be of most help to vehicles coming to MbPT. Demanding such a hefty amount from us is not justified,” a senior MMRDA official said.
The MTHL connects Sewri in the island city to Nhava in Navi Mumbai. The link is 22 km long, with a 16.5 km long bridge running across Mumbai harbour and a 5.5 km long viaduct on the Sewri and Nhava sides. Interchanges are proposed at Sewri to connect to the Eastern Freeway and at Chirle to connect to the NH 4B to facilitate traffic dispersal. The project involves construction of the country’s longest sea bridge.
The implementation of the project will be through public-private partnership on the design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT) basis. While initial estimations slated the total cost at Rs 8,800 crore, it was later revised to Rs 9,630 crore, to accommodate the additional cost of connecting arms on the Sewri side of the MTHL.