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Decongestion projects on the cards, Mumbai to see hectic building activity from October

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The projects – a sea link, a coastal road and two new elevated metro lines – are worth nearly Rs 45,000 crore.

Mumbai: Parts of Mumbai are likely to see hectic construction activity after this monsoon as work on at least four key transport infrastructure projects, some of which have been on the drawing board for years, likely to begin in October.

This includes a sea link, a coastal road along Mumbai’s western coast and two elevated metro lines, altogether worth nearly Rs 45,000 crore.

The projects are touted to decongest Mumbai’s western suburbs and improve their linkage with south Mumbai, create another east-west connector and boost Metro connectivity to Mumbai’s plush business district of Bandra Kurla Complex and to one of its main satellite cities, Thane.

All the projects have courted controversy for some reason or the other.

Environmentalists have been opposing the coastal road as it involves reclaiming land.

Some transport activists and planners have flagged the coastal road as well as the Bandra-Versova sea link for being costly projects that will only encourage cars rather than public transport.

Also read: Boats to the rescue – Waterways to help decongest Mumbai’s packed roads & locals

In case of the two public transport projects that will be underway, sections of residents along the alignment have been pushing for a change in plan.

Most of these projects have also been in the planning stages for at least five years with state government agencies dithering on their design, alignments, financing model and so on.

Coastal road and the sea link

The plan to have a freeway along the city’s western coast to ease travel from south Mumbai to the congested western suburbs is over a decade old.

The idea was to have a string of sea links from Nariman Point in the south to Versova in the west and the landmark Bandra-Worli sea link, which was opened to traffic nine years ago and was built as part of the same plan.

The contract for yet another sea link from Worli to Haji Ali was scrapped after differences between the contractor and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), the agency in charge of implementing the project.

Around 2011, the state government decided to consider building a coastal road on reclamation and stilts instead and the plan for sea links was put on hold.

Also read: Decongesting Mumbai, so far a mission impossible

The plan now is to merge the two ideas and have a coastal road from South Mumbai to the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli sea link and another Bandra-Versova sea link from the Bandra end to provide an uninterrupted commute till the western suburb of Versova.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mumbai’s civic body, will build the coastal road part for approximately Rs 8,000 crore on an engineering procurement contract model.

Sanjay Mukherjee, the additional municipal commissioner, said the BMC has finalised contractors for the project and is awaiting its standing committee’s approval.

“We have already completed preliminary work such as oceanographic studies, geotechnical studies and so on. Once we get the standing committee’s nod, the contractors will have a month to mobilise machinery. We expect work to start in October,” he said.

Besides lanes for private cars, the coastal road will also have dedicated lanes for a bus rapid transport system, cycling tracks, a walking track and it promises to open up the sea along the entire coast up to Worli for the public by way of a promenade. The BMC is also provisioning for a high-speed train along the median to be built in the future if required.

The corridor, which involves building 10 km of roads and 10 km of bridges, will require the reclamation of 90 hectares of land.

Environmentalists raise red flags

Several activists and environmentalists have raised red flags on the long-term adverse effects of reclamation but Mukherjee answers all critics by emphasising on how this is the most robustly reviewed project and perhaps the only one in the country whose detailed project report has been reviewed thrice.

“The environment department too has been very careful in giving its clearance and besides that, 17 other departments have screened the project and given their approvals. So, we expect work to proceed smoothly once we begin,” Mukherjee said.

Both the coastal road and the Banda-Versova sea link have been planned to have several interchanges along the way so as to also ease local traffic.

Also read: Mumbai collapses & cries every monsoon. Why it’s a tired city with chronic fatigue syndrome

The Bandra-Versova sea link, which will be constructed on the Bandra end of the Bandra-Worli sea link, will have four such interchanges in total.

The total project cost of the 9.6-kilometre sea link is pegged at Rs 11,332.82 crore and will take five years to build. Including the connectors, the project will involve constructing a length of 17.17 kilometres.

Like the Bandra-Worli sea link, this sea link too will have a cable-stayed bridge.

Metro lines

Preparatory work and barricading have already been done for the civil construction of two Metro lines to begin post monsoon, MMRDA Commissioner R.A. Rajeev told ThePrint.

The Metro projects, being implemented by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) as part of a metro master plan, will be elevated corridors proposed to boost Mumbai’s weak east-west connectivity and the city’s connectivity with Thane.

The D.N. Nagar-Mankhurd line will be 23.5 km long, crossing the Bandra-Kurla Complex and in turn, connecting to the western suburbs on one side and the eastern suburbs on the other. The line is planned as the second phase of a Dahisar-D.N. Nagar corridor already under construction so as to have direct Metro connectivity from the far eastern suburbs to the far western suburbs. The corridor will be built at a cost of Rs 10,986 crore.

The other metro, the construction of which will start in October, will run from Wadala to Thane, a distance of 32 km. This corridor will cost Rs 14,549 crore.

Residents up in arms

Both projects are facing stiff opposition from a section of residents demanding a change in alignment. Residents of Juhu, Bandra and Khar want the D.N. Nagar-Mankhurd Metro to be constructed underground instead of it being elevated, an idea that the government had toyed with and set aside due to high costs.

Also read: After 10 years, Maharashtra abandons US-style Sea World plan as villagers won’t give land

In case of the Wadala-Thane line, residents want the alignment to be shifted along the Eastern Express Highway, which the government is not keen on due to less ridership.

The MMRDA has ruled out any change in alignment in both cases. A few residents have knocked on the doors of the judiciary in the case of the D.N. Nagar-Mankhurd corridor.

“This will not hamper plans of starting civil work. We can start work on the other stretches till this issue gets sorted,” said MMRDA Commissioner Rajeev.

“People should realise that once the Metro lines are up and running, they will immensely help people who struggle to travel by suburban railway every day. In a city like Mumbai, the Metro was yesterday’s need.”

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