Trans harbour link puts the brakes on five infra projects


By Ranjeet Jadhav

MMRDA has had to concentrate its resources on the ambitious trans harbour link, at the cost of other development and infrastructure projects, which sources say have either been put on hold or have been delayed

Has the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) bitten off more than it can chew? Thanks to its ambitious Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) project, it has had to either put on hold or slow down at least five of its other infrastructure projects that were announced with much fanfare.

The projects that have suffered because of the MTHL are rental housing, growth centres, info-tech parks, funicular railway and the monorail.

Ironically, the authority had competed vehemently with the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to build the MTHL. But it is only now that it realises the high cost of the 22-km sea bridge — an estimated Rs 8,300 crore and a mammoth strain on time and other resources.

The following have had to bear

The funicular railway to connect the base village of Dudhani with Matheran’s Maillot Spring Point (close to Sunset Point) was conceived in 2009, after a visit to Salzburg in Austria. But the MMRDA realised that the
Rs 100-crore proposal is overlapping with the Public Works Department’s ropeway plan.

An MMRDA official, requesting anonymity, said, “The ambitious MTHL project will require more funds. Looking at the future funds that will be needed for the construction, we don’t want to invest money on those projects that are not that important.”

The rental housing plan, proposed in 2008, for MMR was planned on the lines of a similar housing project in Shanghai. According to the original plans, the poorest of the urban poor were to be offered houses on rent measuring 160 sq feet by paying a nominal rent of Rs 1,500 per month. But in order to get more funds, now MMRDA is thinking of modifying the “rental” aspect. Although no official is ready to admit that it is planning to sell off the flats at affordable rates to generate revenue, which can be used for the MTHL projects, sources reveal as much.

Last week, MMRDA Commissioner Rahul Asthana had said, “The CM has formed a committee to be led by me to give recommendations on the possibility of changes in the rental housing scheme. We are of the opinion that instead of constructing small houses of 160 sq feet, developers can construct houses of 269 sq feet. However, the final decision is yet to be taken.” Other considerations such as rent collection, maintenance etc also pose a logistical problem.

The MMRDA was earlier in talks with the railways to revive the defunct power house at Thakurli to generate power for the metro rail, monorail, innovation park, rental housing, the growth centres and so on. The authority had also received an in-principle agreement from the railways. Souces say the project has suffered considerably, thanks to the demands made by MTHL.

But MMRDA Joint Project Director Dilip Kawatkar maintained, “We are not at all going slow on the project and at regular intervals meetings take place between MMRDA and railways. MMRDA will be implementing the project.” The total investment in the project is Rs 4,300 crore.

MMRDA had plans to build four heliports, one each at Backbay Reclamation, Bandra, Nariman Point and Navi Mumbai. But the helipads will be scarped altogether. Moslty because of the MTHL, but also because MMRDA is not getting the requisite sanctions.

Information Technology-enabled services in the 1,000-odd villages in MMR, envisaged by the planning body, had government officials visiting China’s World Expo on Infrastructure.

The concept of virtual classrooms and virtual hospitals was to be implemented. The idea behind the project was to give expert medical help to the villagers and impart quality education in the rural areas by way of video conferencing.

But it is not gaining pace. The Rs 10,000-crore innovation park, wherein around 25,000 scientists from the globe would research across fields, is crawling at a snail’s pace too. “The project requires 5,000 acres and the bidder is in the process of acquiring the land,” said Kawatkar.

But sources revealed that the speed for implementing the project is deplorable.