Mumbai Local

‘Rs 12,000-cr coastal road for 1.25% people’

he BMC’s ambitious proposed coastal road (CR) project, estimated to cost around Rs 12,000 crore (apart from additional environmental and social costs) will benefit only a miniscule 1.25 per cent of the population, the car owners. This skewed benefit distribution makes the project anti-people and anti-environment, and it should be scrapped.

That is the conclusion of report of a public consultation held by the Independent People’s Tribunal last October.

“The cost of moving two lakh passengers per day, with an investment of Rs 12,000 crore, is unjustifiable. Energy cost per passenger per kilometre on the CR — which essentially costs the passenger as well as the environment — will be about 15 times that of suburban rail, or 7.5 times that of the metro.”

The report states that over the past 20 years, Rs 5,000 crore has been spent on flyovers , but only six to eight per cent of commuters using them do so in a bus; roughly 92 per cent of usage is by private cars. With the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and the Eastern Freeway, 98 per cent of the usage is cars, which “shows that car owners have been major beneficiaries”.

The use of cars on the Western Express highway has increased in the last six years, the report says, which has meant regular traffic jams, reducing the performance of these roads. “In other words, money is being spent; it seems to reduce the number of trips [passengers] per day,” the report said.

The report argues that the government has not done anything significant for the seven million people using the suburban railway network, which is so overburdened that an average of 10 people die each day. “The National Urban Transportation Policy 2006 of the government of India explicitly states that the focus and priority of transport policies and investments in Indian cities should move people and not cars. The use of citizens’ taxes to pamper a few is simply bad governance,” the report said.

Several experts have questioned the cloak of secrecy and lack of transparency on the project. Environmental activist Darryl D’Monte pointed out that only 45,000 vehicles were using the Bandra-Worli sea link daily, against the projected daily figure of 1.35 lakh. “There is a complete lack of public information despite repeated attempts to get details,” Mr D’Monte said. The frequent changes in costs, alignment in the route, and technology were also creating a ‘deficit in public trust.’

The violations of the rights of the fishing community, whose access to the sea is affected because of these roads, and the impact on fish breeding grounds and dilution of CRZ norms were among the key objections to the project.

The impact on the environment, through destruction of mangroves, and reclamation of land from the sea, make the project ‘an environmental disaster’ with every constitutional principal being violated. The real design of the project was to grant FSI on open spaces flanking the road, said retired judge Hosbet Suresh.

“The new open spaces created by reclaiming land will be inland and cut off from the sea by a 3.5-km eight-lane highway [stretch between Worli and Bandstand]. Concretised beaches and waterfronts will replace existing natural beaches which are vibrant public spaces. This would imply the loss of public access to the coastline,” said urban conservationist Shweta Wagh.

Experts have questioned the

cloak of secrecy and lack of transparency on the project

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 10:36:36 PM |

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