Are your chacha chachis waiting doe-eyed for Mumbai Coastal Road to clear up road congestion?
Do you have a sinking feeling that their excitement is misguided?
Do you need to figure out how to give them the specifics in minutes in a way they won’t dismiss?
We’ve got you.
Welcome to the first in our new series – ecoHQ Explained in 500: Why Mumbai’s Coastal Road Project is a Magnificent Waste.
I read 300 pages, so you don’t have to. Here’s the gist:
1. It was illegal until someone wanted to make a LOT of money.
- We used to have the 1991 Coastal Regulation Zone laws, which restricted the government’s power to claim public coastal land for ‘development’.
- At the recommendation of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change amended these restrictions in 2015.
- By 2019, projects like the Coastal Road began to take off.
The government rolled back laws that were set in place to protect public lands. These rollbacks allow private corporations to “develop” our commons for profit.
So who is profiting off public land?
- Larsen & Toubro gets ₹12,700 Crore for Phase 1.
- Hindustan Construction Company + Hyundai Development Corporation get ₹9,980 Crore for Phase 2.
- That’s ₹22,680 Crores of public money in private pockets.
We gave money to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to improve our standard of living. So will it?
2. It’ll do NOTHING for vehicular congestion.
Less than 10% of Mumbai uses private vehicles. So if you are a Government looking to make your citizens’ commute easier, where would you put your money — in private transport or public transport and walkways?
This road is the most expensive in India by spending per kilometre. And it’s unavailable to 90% of the city. Elitism aside, it’s worth it if traffic decreases, no? Then it’s better for on-road public transport also. PSYCH! We’ve been fooled.
Urban planning methods that actually decrease traffic:
- Designing neighbourhoods to be self-sufficient, i.e. requiring a commute of no more than 15 minutes to get to daily necessities such as schools and grocery stores. Successful in Paris, Milan, and Melbourne.
- Making cities walkable and cyclable, safe for both adults and children.
- Making public transport attractive to all classes by improving connectivity, frequency, access, and comfort.
Urban development strategies that lead to an increased demand for private vehicles:
- Roads for private vehicles.
In sum: We’re spending ₹22,680 Crore not to solve traffic.
3. And it’s environmentally stupid. Fatally stupid.
Who should be worried:
- Fishes, mangroves, and coral reefs: Yeah, we didn’t realise we had coral reefs in Mumbai, either. Maybe that’s why the BMC thought we wouldn’t notice if they disappeared, even though corals are a Schedule I-protected species. This fact also means that the project violates the Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972, making it illegal.
- Kohli fisherfolk: Fewer fish = lost livelihood.
- Seaside dwellers: If stormwater cannot drain into the ocean, your house faces a higher risk of flooding and other natural disasters.
- Anyone with lungs and ears: But only if you don’t like exhaust emissions and honking. Healthy Mumbaikars’ lungs are already 27% and 35% less functional than healthy Europeans’ and Americans’ lungs. We can’t afford more pollutants.
So there you have it – an illegal, expensive, polluting, unsustainable block of concrete that will leave us with dying ears, black lungs, and the same big fat petrol bill.
And now you know.
A. Ashni is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for gender, disability, and sustainability impact.
- https://www.academia.edu/42116207/Perspective_In_the_Public_Interest_Contesting_Mumbais_Coastal_RoadBombay HC judgement stay