'Mumbai trans-harbour link won't be shifted'

Metropolitan region authority proposes temporary bridge to carry out construction so that flamingo habitat in Sewri is not disturbed

By Ashwin Aghor
Published: Saturday 04 February 2012

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has rejected the demand made by environmentalists to realign the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link. The 22 km road bridge will connect Sewri in Mumbai with Nhava Sheva in Navi Mumbai.  Environmentalists, led by non-profit Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) are protesting the route alignment, saying the project will destroy the flamingo habitat, mudflats and mangroves in Sewri.

BNHS members, led by its director Asad R Rahmani, met MMRDA officials on Thursday to discuss the project. But MMRDA officials refused to consider the non-profit's proposal to shift the starting point of the link road southwards. “Realignment of the link as suggested by BNHS is not technically viable. We will have to face so many difficulties if the link is shifted about 700 metre southwards. It may also pose a threat to the integrity of the Elephanta caves close by, which is a World Heritage Site,” said a senior MMRDA official who did not wish to be named.

Instead of shifting the link, transport experts at MMRDA have proposed  an elevated bridge be used during construction at Sewri. The official said that constructing a temporary elevated bridge to carry out construction would save both the mangroves and the mudflats in the region. According to the proposal, a temporary approach bridge would be constructed across the mangroves and mudflats up to the starting point of the trans-harbour link.

“The bridge will help to take men, machinery and material to the construction spot. Machines will bore from the top for piling work and raising pillars, and then concrete segments will be placed over the pillars. As construction progresses, the link itself will help to build the entire length of 22 km. Once the construction at the starting point is completed, the bridge would be removed,” the official said. The official also said that instructions from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to plan the construction activity to protect the mudflats and allow free movement of birds will be followed in total. “We will also set up a bird observation tower near the starting point of the link road,” the official said.

During the meeting with BNHS, MMRDA officials assured that there will be minimum disturbance to the birds during construction of the link road as the machinery would operate from the temporary bridge and the constructed portion of the bridge. The technology would be as per international standards, with very minimum sound and dust pollution, say officials. “We have asked BNHS and Salim Ali Institute to suggest mitigation measures to ensure protection of the birds and conservation of mudflats during and after the construction of the link corridor,” the official said.

When contacted, BNHS officials refused to comment. “There is no significant development as yet. There is nothing we can talk about at this point of time. “The proposal made by MMRDA is currently being studied,” said Atul Sathe of BNHS.



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