Instead of enjoying the sight of waves lapping against Haji Ali Dargah and Mahalaxmi Temple, Mumbaikars will have to stare at a mesh of roads and flyovers, once the Rs 12,000-crore coastal road project is complete; the Bandra Fort may even lose its character as a sea fort, with the road cutting off its access from the sea, say experts
The city by the sea is in grave danger of becoming the city by the freeway. Soaking in the view of, and from, three of the city’s most iconic structures — Haji Ali Dargah, Mahalaxmi Temple and Bandra Fort — may never be the same again, if the state government has its way.
The BMC has planned a number of structures in the Haji Ali bay, which will obstruct the view of the dargah. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
According to the draft Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the 33.5-km coastal road, the freeway will cut off the Bandra Fort from the sea, making it lose its very character as a sea fort.
The proposed coastal road will obstruct the sea view from Haji Ali dargah and the Mahalaxmi temple
For visitors to Mahalaxmi Temple, snatching some moments of solitude mixed with awe by sitting on the edge of the structure and staring out at the sea will be a relic of the past, unless they find looking at pillars and passing cars calming.
The Mahalaxmi temple will not have visual access to the sea once the coastal road comes up
The worst hit, however, will be the Haji Ali Dargah, with the civic body planning a web of constructions in the bay, which will not just obstruct the view of the mosque from the promenade, but ensure that citizens may have to use an underpass to get to it.
Howls of protest
CM Devendra Fadnavis had announced the big-ticket coastal road project, stretching from Nariman Point to Kandivli, earlier this year. The total length is around 33.5 km and the cost is estimated to be around Rs 12,000 crore.
The road was planned in view of the burgeoning traffic between south Mumbai and the western suburbs and a Bus Rapid Transport System was also planned to benefit other commuters. The draft DPR was published in June and the deadline to submit suggestions and objections was August 27.
The coastal road will cut off the Bandra Fort from the sea, making it lose its very character as a sea fort
The BMC received more than 700 suggestions and objections to the coastal road from citizens, activists and fishermen. According to a report published by Hussain Indorewala, assistant professor at Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture, who has been studying the DPR, the coastal road will affect the iconic structures in several ways.
“Both the Bandra fort and the Mahalaxmi temple will not have visual access to the sea anymore as an eight-lane highway will pass right in front of them. The Bandra Fort has always been a sea fort; you can access the sea from the fort, which will be lost. It may be said that the Bandra Fort may lose its character as a sea fort,” Indorewala said.
A report prepared by Indorewala and his colleague Shweta Wagh states: ‘The existing sea-facing areas, structures, waterfronts, beaches and monuments (such as the Mahalaxmi temple), will no longer have visual and physical access to the sea due to the construction of an 8-lane highway with an elevation of about 3.5 m above the high tide line.’
“Both the Bandra Fort and Mahalaxmi Temple will become nothing more than traffic islands. The coastal road will go around them, blocking three sides,” said conservation architect David Cardoz. “The Bandra fort is a historic structure.
Also called the Castella de Aguada, the fort had a Soldier’s Pool where boatmen would wash their clothes and replenish their drinking water supplies before heading out into the sea again. Now, it will be reduced to being a traffic island.
Same goes for the Mahalaxmi Temple, which will become a traffic island just before the coastal road turns towards Worli,” he added. Of the three, the Haji Ali Dargah will bear the lion’s share of the brunt since the BMC has planned a number of structures in the Haji Ali Bay.
Construction of a web of flyovers and connectors proposed within the bay will not only substantially reduce its size, but also obstruct and partially block the view of the dargah from the adjoining road. This means, you will not be able to get an unobstructed view of the dargah as you do now.
“Yes, Haji Ali will be the worst affected since they have proposed the construction of a new road, flyover and connectors there. The view will be obstructed as per the current DPR. Even the Bandra Fort will become a traffic island.
We have all submitted our suggestions and objections, lets hope they are incorporated. Mumbai should not become a city by the highway instead of a city by the sea,” said renowned architect P K Das.
The Environment Impact Assessment report for the coastal road mentions that noise levels at Haji Ali, Nariman Point, Mahalaxmi Temple, Carter Road, Rizvi College, Poddar Hospital, Versova and Lokhandwala Complex, are already exceeding the limits prescribed under Environment Protection Act (Regulation & Control) Rules, 2000. These noise levels will increase during and after the construction of the coastal road.