Sena's see-saw on coastal road

The party, which had earlier supported the project, plans to make people aware of drawbacks after, CM's office says construction on the Rs 10,000-crore project would begin after clearance from the Centre

Now that the state government has made public the report of a 12-member committee appointed to study the feasibility of building a coastal freeway connecting South Mumbai with the suburbs and the rapidly growing metropolitan region, the Shiv Sena that's ruling the city's civic body in alliance with the BJP has said it will use the issue to target the Congress while campaigning for the upcoming BMC polls. Party leaders, many of whom were once vouching for Municipal Commissioner Subodh Kumar's idea, would now be telling citizens about the flipside of the Rs 10,000-crore project.

Turning the tide! The Sena says it's concerned that the project would
adversely affect the Koli community living along the coast

Last week, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced that construction of the freeway would begin once necessary clearances are obtained from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

But this move has not gone down well with the Sena and party leaders say they have lost their trust in Kumar now.

"The members on the panel were themselves opposing the idea of having the coastal freeway, which would cause a lot of environmental losses to the city and would pose coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) issues.

Also, reclaiming of land is not permitted at all and according to the report this would be done at three places.

Earlier we had supported the project but now that the Congress is taking credit for it, we would not let it happen as it would also affect the Koli villages along the coast," said a Shiv Sena leader on condition of anonymity. He added that the Sena has always had plans of improving the coastal front in the Koli villages along with beautification of the area, but if the project is implemented, that won't be possible.

Another senior Sena leader told MiD DAY that they have been studying the pros and cons of the project and they would now accuse the state government of trying to destroy the coastline.

"Although traffic would be reduced, the existing promenades in Bandra and Worli would not remain, and with traffic movement there, pollution would increase too. There would be destruction of mangroves, which is against the law and even citizen groups that have been protecting the areas would be opposing the move," he said.

MiD DAY had earlier reported that the committee members had already informed the commissioner about the project's environmental implications.

"The panel members had pointed out that large amounts of soil would be required for reclamation and the water level would rise in areas like Vasai-Virar.

How would that be handled? The primary concern is that the project doesn't affect the environment," said Sena leader Rahul Shewale.

On a previous occasion he had told MiD DAY that the party had complete faith in Kumar's vision and execution.
Meanwhile, Congress Spokesperson Nizamuddin Rayeen said the party has no political agenda in mind regarding the project.

"The aim is to develop the city as per international standards. Whether that happens through the state government or central government isn't important. Both the governments have invested money in the city's corporation; what has the ruling party done for development? The report has been sent to the centre. If there are any  concerns, they would be addressed," he said.

The 35-km coastal freeway is a response to the expensive sea links, which take more time to complete. The freeway would be a combination of roads on stilts, widened existing roads and tunnels. Although reclamation is the cheapest form, it would not be used throughout. Three tunnels are proposed � one each under Marine Drive, Malabar Hill and Juhu aerodrome. The report also offers two options, one including a tunnel under Marine Drive, and one without.

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