Mithi River choked due to Metro III: Will Mumbai face massive floods in 2018?

Updated: Dec 22, 2017, 11:28 IST | Laxman Singh

Photos show contractor has used Metro III construction debris to reclaim more than 10 metres of the crucial river in several places, narrowing it down from its 25-metre width near Dharavi

So, they spent all that time and money desilting the Mithi River and then Metro came along and dumped it all right back. Perhaps this is how things work in this city. A citizen activist has alleged that excavation work for the Metro III (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) corridor has reduced the width of the river in Dharavi to 15 metres from the existing 25. Reason: the contractor has been illegally dumping muck on the riverbank, violating the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) norms.

Workers dump muck into Mithi river during Metro III work, almost halving the river's width
Workers dump muck into Mithi river during Metro III work, almost halving the river's width

Activist Zoru Bhathena has filed complaint with the MCZMA, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), Mangrove Cell and the suburban collector against the contractor appointed by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), which is executing the 33.2-km Metro III project. "I requested authorities to take immediate action to stop this illegal activity and take necessary steps for immediate restoration of the river," he said.

Reclaiming river
Bhathena visited the site on December 17 and found large-scale reclamation going on along the riverbank. The activist, who took photos showing the dumped muck, alleged that the contractor's illegal act has ended up reducing the river's width from 25 metres to a mere 15.

Metro III (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) excavation work on Mithi riverbank in Dharavi
Metro III (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) excavation work on Mithi riverbank in Dharavi

Speaking to mid-day, Bhathena said, "Despite there being a retaining wall along the river, the contractor is constructing a new one, which is nearly 10 metres inside the river. There are photos showing the illegal reclamation. Such illegal work must be stopped immediately; reducing Mithi river's width will be catastrophic for Mumbai." "Preservation and protection of Mithi is very important to the city, as maintaining its free flow is critical to avoid flooding," he added.

The documents accessed by Bhathena show the permissions granted by the MCZMA in its 114th meeting, on November 2, 2016, which also clearly state that the mangrove patches should not be disturbed during the construction and operation phase, and that no muck should be dumped in the CRZ area for more than 74 hours. One of the points mentioned in the minutes of the meeting instructs MMRCL to ensure that the muck is transported from the site within 74 hours.

The other side
"We at MMRC would like to highlight that being a responsible government organisation, all the construction work for Mumbai Life Line III is being carried out post the necessary approvals and NOCs from concerned authorities," said a spokesperson from MMRCL.

When contacted, member secretary of MPCB, Dr B N Patil, said, "I am in Nagpur to attend winter session of the Assembly. I will check the complaints once I am back. We will look into matter if there is any violation of permission." The head of MCZMA, Satish Gavai, could not be reached for a comment.

25m
Earlier width of the river

15m
Current width of the river

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Will a choked Mithi River lead to floods in 2018?

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