Maharashtra plans to reclaim more land from sea in Mumbai

Written By Unknown on Senin, 02 Desember 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: A government body is resuscitating plans of large-scale reclamation of land from the Arabian Sea—including expansion of the financial centre at Nariman Point—by commissioning studies to assess their environmental and social impact.

The Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU), which was set up to help in the city's planned development, is contracting agencies to scientifically examine how reclamation has affected Mumbai over the last 100 years. It also wants them to study the possible effects of the proposals made a few years ago by the Singaporean consultancy firm Surbana in its blueprint for Mumbai's transformation, sources said.

Among other things, the consultant had suggested the creation of a sweet-water lake at Mahim Bay, Nariman Point's expansion, and a coastal road from Marine Drive to Malad. While the coastal road idea was taken up by the state, the others were brushed aside following strong criticism and opposition to reclamation.

MTSU sources said that a Dutch firm, Royal Haskoning DHV, and the National Institute of Oceanography will conduct the studies for them.

The Dutch company will consider how to undertake reclamation and the effects of past reclamation on the coast, morphology, marine life, ground water, etc. The oceanography institute will examine the impact of reclamation on local communities.

The sweet-water lake at Mahim was proposed to be created by erecting a bund near the bay's mouth to prevent the ingress of saline water.

Nariman Point's expansion envisaged the merging of railway land (Badhwar Park) with defence land and reclamation from the sea to create high-end residences and a financial centre. The plan included restoration and expansion of fishing villages; creation of a waterfront promenade; and development of a public park behind the National Centre for the Performing Arts. The project, as envisioned, will spread over 100 hectares.

Former MTSU chief U P S Madan, who is now the MMRDA commissioner, maintained that Mumbai's strength as an island needs to be preserved. "This can be done only through reclamation. It is necessary and adds to the city's aesthetics. The additional land can help earn greater revenue."

"Reclamation should be the first option (for expansion). Hong Kong, Singapore, the US and Japan, all have done it. It will have a positive impact on the economy. Today, there is strong opposition to reclamation. Hence, we have to look towards the mainland," said Madan.

Narinder Nayar of the NGO Mumbai First, which first suggested reclamation to boost the economy, said there is strong resistance to the practice. "Whether reclamation is finally carried out or not, we wanted a scientific study to be conducted so that people know what it entails. Several countries have successfully done it and enhanced their economies," he said.

Environmentalist Rishi Agarwal, however, strongly criticised the reclamation proposal, saying the MTSU should look at cleaning Mithi before considering a sweet-water lake. "The immediate need is to clean Mithi, Poisar and Dahisar rivers. Let them achieve that first. Over Rs 700 crore have been spent on developing Mithi and its banks, but not a rupee has been expended on a sewage treatment plant," he said.

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