Centre alerted of serious ramifications the project will have due to its proximity to BARC, Mumbai Port Trust and Mazagon Docks

Mumbai’s most ambitious infrastructure project — the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL) — could be in trouble as central security agencies have alerted the Centre about “serious security ramifications” that the project will have due to its proximity to several key installations, including the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the Mumbai Port Trust (MBPT) and the Mazagon Docks.

In a “secret” note to the Maharashtra government, the Ministry of Home Affairs has pointed out that the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), which will be constructing the 22-km long sea link, has failed to take necessary clearances from security agencies either at the local or Central level, except for the Navy.

Pointing out that construction of the sea link had “serious security ramifications,” the note said the bridge on the sea would pass through the area where many sensitive installations were located. These included facilities such as the BARC, MBPT, Mazagaon Docks, oil marketing companies HPCL and BPCL, Rashtriya Chemical and Fertilizers (RCF), and Tata Power.

Terror threat

“The sea link would expose these facilities to be targeted by Pan-Islamic terror outfits, including LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba], as these installations, particularly the BARC, continue to be high on their agenda. Besides, these vessels moving in the area with highly sensitive items would become vulnerable,” the note noted.

The note said the central agencies warned that after completion, the MTHL would “emerge as an iconic and strategic project and certainly will invite the attention of terrorist groups working inside or outside the country … Hence, maintaining its security will be a challenge for security agencies.”

Clearance

Interestingly, the central security agencies said the “MMRDA has sought clearance for the project from 44 Departments/Ministries. However, no security agency, local or central, is figuring among them except for the Navy, which has entirely a different role.”

Significantly, the MMRDA has started the process of constructing the crucial link, India’s longest bridge on sea, which will cut travel time between south Mumbai and Navi Mumbai and to other upcoming projects such as the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport and satellite townships.

The Centre had sanctioned the viability gap funding of Rs. 1,920 crore for the Rs. 9,630-crore MTHL that is likely to completed by 2019.

The MTHL will be a six-lane freeway grade road bridge that will begin in Sewri in south Mumbai and cross the Thane Creek north of the Elephanta Island before terminating at Chirle village, near Nhava Sheva.

The road will also be linked to the Mumbai-Pune Expressway in the east, and to the Western Freeway in the west.

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