The Western Express Highway in Mumbai is a nightmare. On a good day Bert takes an hour and a half for his 30-odd-kilometre commute to the office. On a bad day that could easily double. It doesn't help that the road supports over 60 per cent of Mumbai's traffic. Widening the road isn't really a possibility so the Maharashtra Government looked at another alternative altogether - build a brand new one on reclaimed land from the sea.
Proposals like this usually take years to clear but the new government has generated an image for fast clearance of ecologically sensitive projects. For better or worse. So what exactly is the coastal road? It is an estimated Rs 8,500 crore project that will connect the south of Mumbai from Nariman Point with the north at Kandivali. This is being done after a 37-year period during which the government had sworn off using coastal land for any commercial purpose. The road itself will be a four-lane (Why not six or eight we ask? Where's the foresight?) affair with two corridors reserved for a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS). The Metro III Colaba-Bandra-Seepz corridor will also be integrated with the road network.
The Government of Maharashtra has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Netherlands who will provide technical expertise in carrying out the project with the minimal impact on the environment. Environment minister Prakash Javedkar has said that the Maharashtra Government has been given the clearance on the grounds that the reclamation from the sea will be minimal, that no commercial activity can be carried out on this reclaimed land and that the project should stay clear of the high tide line. All in the project will liberate 91 hectares of green space.
The green light for this project means that the Government has shelved earlier proposed sea link roads that were to connect Nariman point to Haji Ali, Haji Ali to Worli and Bandra to Versova. Construction work should begin by the end of this year and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis recently said that the project will be complete within two years. That sounds optimistic but if true the project will be a huge decongester for Mumbai.