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How migrant workers from across India are building Mumbai's Coastal Road

Updated on: 14 February,2024 02:13 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Sanjana Deshpande |

The hands behind the making of Mumbai's Coastal Road are all migrant workers from across India who have huddled in camp-like accommodations in the city.

How migrant workers from across India are building Mumbai's Coastal Road

The total lane count is eight on the Coastal Road, with the tunnel road having six lanes. Pic/Satej Shinde

Preparations are in full swing in Mumbai before the inauguration of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) most ambitious project, the Coastal Road, on February 19.  Albeit only the southbound carriageway will be opened to the public for select hours presently, the project is touted to be a game-changer and the hands who have made it possible over the years attest to it. 

The hands behind the making of such a magnanimous project are all migrant workers from various states across India huddled in camps and company-provided accommodations in the city. They shall be on their way as soon as the road is complete. 

The faces of those associated with the project beam with pride and joy as they recount how good they felt seeing this opulent roadway project come to life.

40-year-old Harvilas Biswas who has been in Mumbai for the past couple of years working on the Coastal Road Project, with a very joyous smile said, "In my native of Kolkata, we have never seen such big projects. I am delighted I got to work on this. If not for Coastal Road, I don't know when I could be a part of such an opulent project."

Biswas, like other workers on site, lives in the Century Park colony where the workers are put up. Every morning, they arrive at the site near Amarsons Garden and get to work assigned to them for the day like paving the roads which include laying asphalt, and concretisation. 

The workers are on site for the next 12 hours until the next shift reports to work. 

Ashok Kumar Das from Bihar’s Muzzafarpur has been associated with the project for three years and has been working at the site near Marine Drive which is scheduled to be inaugurated. Elaborating on the work undertaken there, Das said, “The work here, on a VIP stretch, is very different from what I did previously, especially working on the tunnel that begins here. Working inside a tunnel is very difficult.”

Sushil Pawar, a supervisor at the Marine Drive site, said no one can work continuously in the tunnel and that it is crucial to rest in between. “If a worker has been working inside a tunnel for two hours, they will have to rest for two hours before they can resume work since the oxygen levels are lower under the ground. Work on tunnels, thus is slower than work done on land,” he said.

Das added that there are rooms on site to rest for the workers; he said that the risk while working under the tunnel is high. While Pawar chimed in saying that they have to ensure no untoward incident like a fire does not happen since it will take time for help to reach the workers.

Mohammad Noor Jahan, from West Bengal, has been working at the Amrsons Garden site for a while, told Mid-Day that he has no qualms about working there as the firm has provided them with all necessary safety gear. 

Responding to a query on how they cope with working during afternoon hours under the harsh sun, Noor Jahan said that the workers are given adequate amounts of ORS and other glucose-rich energy beverages to prevent heat strokes. 

When asked about the medical facilities the workers receive, a source said, that all workers undergo medical checkups routinely, which happen once every two-three months. He also said that the workers, in case of accidents, are admitted to the nearest government-run facilities like JJ Hospital. 

The source added that there are three ambulances on site and a medical staff that tends to conduct the triages. 

However, the workers, who have mostly migrated from states like West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, pointed out that living in Mumbai is cost-extensive. 

Chandan Prasad (37), who has been in Mumbai for many years, said that working on the Coastal Road project has been a rewarding and new experience. Chandan who works in the electrical departments elaborated on it, "I'd always worked for metro projects. This is a new and different experience in comparison. Workers usually follow our senior in-charge. If they are transferred and later call us to work on the site they are at, we follow them."

Chandan, who has previously lived in cities like Lucknow, said that inflation hits hard in the city. "Work here has been good, but living in the city is expensive. The rate of inflation is high here and it puts a dent in our pockets," he said. 

Pawar added that presently, security personnel, Traffic Police, Fire Brigade department have been surveying the Marine Drive to Worli stretch due to the impending inauguration ceremony. 

More on the Mumbai Coastal Road project

The Mumbai Coastal Road Project, officially named the Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Coastal Motorway, is an ambitious infrastructure initiative that is touted to transform Mumbai's transportation landscape. 

The 29.2-kilometre, eight-lane motorway is intended to connect Marine Drive in the south to the northern suburbs while hugging the city's western coastline.

The project's main purpose is to ease Mumbai's notorious traffic congestion. It seeks to cut the travel time between south and north Mumbai from two hours to 40 minutes by providing a high-speed alternate route. The newly launched route between Marine Drive and Worli would reduce travel time from an hour to ten minutes.

The project dubbed an engineering marvel, includes several notable features such as undersea tunnels, a sea wall, and various interchanges and flyovers to improve traffic flow and link to existing roadways.

While the initiative offers various benefits, it has also received criticism. Critics claimed the proposal would harm coastal ecosystems and marine life. Construction has reportedly harmed mangroves and nesting places for endangered species. Furthermore, the project's enormous cost prompted concerns about its long-term financial viability.

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