Mumbai: The much-hyped Coastal Road will destroy Mumbai’s beautiful western coastline, with its mangroves, sandy beaches and rocky outcrops, environmentalists say, strongly objecting to the plans.
Environmentalists at Awaaz Foundation, an NGO, have written to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s chief engineer in the Roads and Traffic Department, seeking an extension of the time limit for final objections and suggestions, as well as a personal hearing before any finalisation of the project.
The activists say the 35km long coastal road, consisting of 11.6km reclaimed areas, bridges and elevated roads along the western sea coast, will adversely impact the natural scenic beauty of the city, causing destruction and at the same time cutting off convenient access to the sea for all citizens — for whom the sea shore is the only place to go on weekends.
Sumaira Abdul Ali, founder of the Awaaz Foundation, says two underground tunnels are proposed, the access points to which will destroy a large stretch of sandy beach used for recreational and livelihood purposes.
Entire fishing villages will face destruction and require relocation, other beaches awaiting beautification and cleanliness efforts from the government will instead be destroyed by the alignment of the proposed Coastal Road — as will existing promenades, the activist said.
“Through citizens’ efforts, partnering with the government, some beaches including Chowpatty and Juhu Beach have been preserved and beautified while beaches in Mahim, Chimbai and Dadar, among others, are used for recreational and cultural activities including during important festivals such as the Ganpati Festival,” Abdul Ali said.
“Large scale land reclamation will adversely impact marine ecology and tidal movement.”
Highlighting contradictions in the BMC’s report on the project, she says on the one hand it states, “The Committee has found that the proposed reclamation in an average width of about 100m does not cause any impact on the tidal movements and no adverse effects to the coastline are envisaged.”
The report than contradicts itself, Abdul Ali said, by stating, “Bridge on sea: Disturbance to aquatic habitats. Stilt road: Stilt road is permissible in Coastal Regulation Zone but would cause a visual obstruction to the view of the sea and in Mumbai, coastal roads on stilts is not environmental-friendly and feasible option, where large scale development has taken place in the neighbourhood.” The coastal road also involves land reclamation in mangroves which are considered as reserve forests in Maharashtra and crossing creeks that are ecologically sensitive, she added.
Apart from causing water pollution, the pollution from vehicles and construction work, the Coastal Road will completely block natural drainage of water into the sea and rely on a man-made drainage system.
Regular flooding in the past indicates how the “government has been unable to control extensive flooding through man-made drainage systems in spite of their best efforts,” she says.
Objecting to the Coastal Road as a project against public interest, the NGO has recommended the possibility of constructing a road to carry traffic through Metro and Bus Rapid Transport systems along the eastern side of Mumbai so that there is minimal impact on the mainly residential and already densely populated Western sea front.