Mumbai coastal road project: Activists cite BMC letter, say figures for open spaces misleading

A major portion of the reclaimed open spaces have been marked as “amenity” spaces, activists said, claiming that out of 91 hectares to be reclaimed, only 10.04 hectares will be purely green spaces.

ACTIVISTS opposing any reclamation work for the coastal road project have alleged that the BMC’s figures on open spaces are misleading, and that the city will actually get very little additional open space from the reclamation.

A major portion of the reclaimed open spaces have been marked as “amenity” spaces, they said, claiming that out of 91 hectares to be reclaimed, only 10.04 hectares will be purely green spaces.

The BMC has maintained that the reclamation work will give the city additional open spaces totalling 91 hectares.

However, activists have countered these figures citing a BMC letter — dated March 21, 2017 — sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, describing in detail how the reclaimed land will be used.

According to the letter, of the 91 hectares, 20 hectares will be used for road carriageway, including promenade on the seaward side. The remaining 70 hectares have been shown as green spaces, of which 56 hectares will be used for amenities and 3.96 hectares as median space. This means only 10.04 hectares will be purely green spaces.“The BMC had always said that the reclamation for coastal road project will give the city additional open space. But now, this letter clearly shows that they are misleading us. Figures clearly show that pure green space will be only 10.04 hectares. Under amenities, they will construct police chowki, sub0stations, bus bays, car parking and other facilities.

How are they considering these to be green space?” green activist Zoru Bhathena said. Residents also pointed out that in the recently-released Development Control Regulation (DCR), amenity space is defined as gymnasium/gymkhana, shelter for destitute, old age homes, pumping stations, facility for solid waste management and municipal chowkies. This means there could be commercial exploitation of these reclaimed land, said a resident.

Residents’ groups have opposed the reclamation expressing concerns over destruction of marine biodiversity along the west coast and irreversible damage to ecology as well as fishing areas. These residents have formed a group called ‘Save Our Coast’.

Some have also filed Public Interest Litigations (PIL) in the Bombay High Court against the proposed coastal road. Hearing one of the PILs, while the HC has as of now stayed further work on the project, the BMC has approached the Supreme Court seeking to lift the stay.

A senior BMC official said the figures cited by the protesters were incorrect. “The city will get more open spaces. However, there will be some amenities, as these will be required for maintenance of the coastal road and tunnels. Also, in case of any construction or development on these open spaces, the people would first be consulted,” he said.

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