The Maharashtra government's ongoing plan to upgrade Mumbai's transportation infrastructure has received a boost, as the expert appraisal committee (EAC) attached to the ministry of environment and forests has recommended the Rs 4,045 crore Versova-Bandra sea link project for coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance. The state-run Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) is the nodal agency for the proposed 10-km sealink project having 4-plus-4 lanes on both the sides. The state government has proposed projects totally worth over Rs 1 lakh crore including sea links, coastal roads, bridges, rail corridors and internal water transport schemes for upgrading Mumbai's infrastructure and the Versova-Bandra sea link is a key project in this plan.
However, EAC has laid down seven conditions including replantation of mangroves following destruction and cutting of existing ones, compliance of assurances given to fishermen, seeking forest clearance and the approval of the Bombay high court by MSRDC and no dredging and reclamation for the project. This apart, MSRDC would have to strictly follow all the recommendations made by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Agency. All the construction equipments would have to be provided with exhaust silencer especially close to habitation and the duck materials would have to be analysed prior to dumping/disposal in the identified locations with the approval of the competent authority to ensure that it do not cause any impact to the environment.
An MSRDC official confirmed this development. He said, "EAC at its meeting held on October 18 has given its go ahead for recommending it for CRZ clearance. The minutes of the meeting were released recently. The proposed sea link will save travelling time and curb traffic congestion. There is no open space available for the expansion of existing roads connecting Bandra and Versova in north Mumbai. The sea link is therefore quite crucial for the alternative faster transportation system."
The official said that MSRDC has proposed 10X mangrove plantation at Bandra adjacent to the project as necessary under the CRZ notification, 2011. The identified land is government which currently has sparse mangrove.
Moreover, MSRDC has prepared extensive environment management plan (EMP) and disaster management plan for the project and has budgeted at present Rs 44 crore towards EMP which may go up during implementation of the project. The road would be constructed on stilt in the mangroves at the Versova connector for construction of 4-5 piers.
Marine Impact Assessment Studies for the project was carried out by Life Sciences Department, university of Mumbai, through Fine Envirotech Engineers.
According to the official, MSRDC has already held discussions with the fishermen and agreed to develop a small jetty and common area for their repairing of net, give preference of employment and compensation and provide compensation to the affected fishermen. Besides, MSRDC has also interacted with local people, NGOs, concerned authorities from fishing activities.