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Mumbai Highway: Rs 11,300 crore road may destroy coastal topography, says Dutch minister



By NewsGram Staff Writer

At a public meeting convened by the Mumbai Waterfronts Centre (MWC) on June 24, the Dutch Consul in Mumbai, Arend Gouw, said that the city’s ambitious, expensive Rs.11,300-crore coastal road, if not planned properly, would “homogenize” the coast.

He then corrected this to “destroy”.

On June 5, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte met Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and announced Dutch technical assistance for the 34.6-km-long road – 53 years after it was first planned – to be built at a cost of Rs 322 crore per km, or only Rs. 28 crore per km less than Mumbai’s future Metro lines.

Although the consultants presented the detailed project report (DPR) on the road on Mumbai’s western seafront this February, the municipal corporation only made it public on June 24.

This was after Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar cleared the road, connecting Nariman Point in south Mumbai to Kandivali in the northern suburbs, on June 8, subject to two conditions:

One, to reclaim as little land for the project; such reclamation was halted in 1974 after protests by environmentalists.

Second, to retain the current building restrictions under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ). These prohibit construction within 500 metres of the high-tide line.

Since the road will be constructed some 100-200 metres off the coast, there was the danger that the high-tide line would have been pushed back by that much, permitting construction on some of India’s most expensive real estate.

Activists attended a meeting convened by the MWC on July 3 to list their objections to the project, originally mooted by Los Angeles-based planners in 1962.

The DPR reveals the lack of institutional support for a coherent mobility policy, according to Rishi Aggarwal from the Observer Research Foundation.

It also cites how due to the global economic downturn, Mumbai’s population growth has slowed perceptibly. Between 2001 and 2011, the city only grew by 500,000 people.

It shows that the growth in car traffic will peak at 3 percent per annum between 2015 and 2019, slowing down to 0.3 percent between 2040 and 2043, an average of only 1.7 percent in these 28 years.

It estimated a maximum of 34,090 cars per day in 2014 through the existing Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL), which was built in 2009 and will be connected to the road. This dropped to 11,378 cars at its southernmost section at Nariman Point.

In 2044, it estimated at most 61,749 cars a day at BWSL, dropping to 27,616 at Nariman Point.

Nariman Point and south Mumbai are losing their clout as the old central business district. They are ceding ground to the Bandra-Kurla Complex, where real estate prices are higher. Other centres have opened up in the suburbs too for IT and other industries.

Apart from the declining importance of Nariman Point, motorists are reluctant to pay Rs.60 one way or Rs.90 return and prefer to use the old inland route, which takes more time.

If one took the interest on the Rs.11,300 crores spent on the new road – which will go up when finally ready in three or more years – and added maintenance costs, the one-way toll from Kandivali to Nariman Point should be around Rs.400, according to an expert. Few people would pay this.

The alignment of the road is also questionable, according to Shweta Wagh, on the faculty of Kamala Raheja college. There will be an undersea 5-km-long tunnel from Nariman Point across the Marine Drive bay through Malabar Hill to Nepean Sea Road.

When Marine Drive already exists as a reclaimed road, why not align the road to follow its contours, asks Wagh.

At Dadar Prabhadevi beach, Dutch technology has been used to replenish the sandy beach and prevent further erosion. With the construction envisaged for the road, further damage to the coastal topography can’t be ruled out.

According to an earlier official report, 186 hectares will be reclaimed, but no buildings will be permitted on them.

This will obstruct the operations of fisherfolk, according to Rajesh Mangela of the Maharashtra Machimar Kruti Sangh. In the past, reclamation at Nariman Point and BWSL has similarly affected their livelihood.

Under the original scheme for the road, proposed by the architect Hafeez Contractor, there would have been an even 100-metre-wide entirely reclaimed swathe to serve as the highway. This would have privatised public space.

If the Metro is built into the road, it will increase reclamation “drastically”, according to an official who worked on the road. Officials have also mentioned creating parking areas along the road.

While the DPR route shows the road ending abruptly in Madh island, which will be connected to Greater Mumbai by a bridge, the narrow roads running through these northern villages will be widened even more than the coastal road. This will destroy the ambience of these areas, which serve as weekend getaways for Mumbaikars.

The DPR admits that the project will not be financially viable on a Build, Operate and Transfer basis. However, it does not specify how much it should charge as toll to recover capital and recurring costs.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Modi must break silence on intolerance: Maharashtra Opposition leader Radhakrishna


Mumbai: Maharashtra’s Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence over the growing issue of intolerance which is assuming serious proportions day by day.

The PM’s silence over the issue is making it more serious with each passing day. It is time for him to speak out and try to understand why the artistes-literary figures are feeling insecure,

In a statement, the veteran Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly said that in the recent past, intolerance has vitiated the country’s atmosphere with artistes and litterateurs experiencing a sense of fear.

Referring to Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s statements on Monday, Vikhe-Patil said he was “not wrong” as an atmosphere of terror was being felt in the country.

Moreover, many literary figures have returned their government awards and attempts are being made by certain forces to further vitiate the atmosphere and Modi’s silence was making them bolder.

“However, since the majority of the people of the country are secular-minded and tolerant, they will teach them a lesson at the appropriate time.”

Aamir Khan’s statement is of an extreme nature, and all must unite to fight such forces seriously given the present situation,

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday declined to comment on Aamir Khan’s remarks, while Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam termed the comments as “treason” and said the actor was welcome to go to Pakistan if he felt so insecure in India.

(Inputs from IANS)

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Relief fund misuse and Fadnavis’ misplaced priorities


By Sapan Kapoor

Over 650 debt-ridden, wretched farmers have committed suicides in BJP-ruled Maharashtra in this year alone. The extent of the problem can be realized by the fact that the state government has declared 14,708 villages as drought-hit.

The Bombay High Court has even issued notice to the Devendra Fadnavis-led government seeking its response on the increasing number of farmer suicides in the state due to drought.

“Tell us what steps you are taking and what the ground level situation is,” a bench of justices Naresh Patil and S B Shukre asked.

The government pleader informed the court that farmers were being counseled by psychiatrists, loans and electricity charges were being waived, banks and cooperative societies were told not to recover loans.

It is a pity that when the state is reeling under such a severe crisis, a query filed under the Right to Information Act by activist Anil Galgali has revealed that CM Fadnavis granted Rs 8 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for a government employee’s dance group Sachivalaya Gymkhana’s visit to Thailand from December 26-30 last year.

Fadnavis, however, denied any wrongdoing over the alleged misuse of relief fund.

“The Chief Minister’s Relief Fund has separate accounts for drought relief. For cultural activities, 25 per cent of the fund is reserved. Out of that we sponsor people for cultural activities,” Fadnavis said.

This apparent insensitivity and callousness shown by the Chief Minister and his party over this pressing issue should be condemned in no uncertain terms. But, he is not the only one in the saffron party who has been accused of being injudicious in his approach in dealing with sensitive issues. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s incessant, whirlwind foreign trips to 20 countries from June 2014 and June 2015, an RTI query has revealed, has cost the exchequer over Rs 37 crore as well, inviting sharp criticism from various sections of the society.

I am in no way suggesting that our PM should give his world tour, selfie spree a break and instead look at the plight of poor farmers, for his supporters claim that his visits abroad – twice to the USA – have helped India in getting business and much needed foreign investment.

I am all for investment and business coming to India, for that will bring along with it jobs for the unemployed youth who rallied behind the PM during his election campaign and voted for him in large numbers.

CM Fadnavis and PM Modi have, however, failed to understand that in a country like India where over 60 per cent people live below the poverty line, the government ought to get its priorities right and ensure optimum use of available resources.

Thus, Rs 8 lakh that Fadnavis showered upon the babus for their junket from his relief fund or over Rs 37 crore that PM Modi spent on his world tour could have perchance saved many lives. For since December 2014 to October this year over 650 farmers have been forced to commit suicide. But, perhaps expecting humanity, moral righteousness and due consideration from our leaders seems like asking for too much of them.

When a BJP leader draws a puppy analogy while speaking about the brutal murder of two Dalit children, when a Sadhvi uses expletives against a community during an election speech, when a Union Minister terms Dadri lynching as an ‘accident’ and when the head of a state gets his priorities wrong, we should look within and introspect.

As Joseph de Maistre, a French philosopher, once said, “Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

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