In December last year, the Supreme Court stayed a Bombay High Court order that had quashed Coastal Regulation Zone clearance granted to the southern part of Mumbai’s coastal road project.
The project—estimated to cost Rs 14,000 crores—which is proposed to be a eight-lane, 29.2km long freeway that would run along Mumbai's western coastline, connecting Marine Lines in the south and Kandivali in the north, has been mired in controversies. At present, work work has been going on despite the apex court's stay on the reclamation work done for the BMC's ambitious coastal road project.
Speaking about the same at a climate crisis conclave hosted by Mumbai First in collaboration with the government of Maharashtra and European Union today, Praveen Pardeshi, municipal commissioner of Mumbai, asked, "Can a population of 18 million in Mumbai survive with just 11 per cent area and public streets? Coastal roads is the only way to add space and provide unparalleled connectivity, given the geography of the city. Also, the project went through a regulatory zone clearance for the marine infrastructure, which was in itself a laborious process. The risks have been factored in and we are still open if anyone wants to revisit the technicalities."
Citing the example of how Netherlands, one third of which lies below sea level, continues to keep itself safe from the sea, Pardeshi said, "The new modification of the coastline may have its own consequences, at worse there can be a two degree rise. The predicted sea level rise will be roughly about two metres, but the parts which are facing the coastal road will be free of inundations. And if this seems outlandish, then you must know that the whole country of the Netherlands is below the sea level and is still safe from the sea because they undertook such similar steps."
The consulate general of Netherlands Guido Tielman vouched for this. "I stay with my family in the Hague and I know that very soon it can just go under water. No place in Europe is under greater threat than Netherlands. Much of the nation is gradually sinking and more so as climate change brings the prospect of rising tides and aggressive storms. Just as in India you are confronted with PILs, we too are faced with them and we are also being held by our own government and autonomous think tanks," said Teilman.
Shirish Sankhe, senior partner at Mckinsey who was also present, spoke about the crucial role of "right" designing when it comes to immaculately planned cities. "We have been experiencing the soaring temperatures of 40 to 42 degrees in Mumbai now, which used to never happen a decade back. If we don't keep the orientation and the wind ventilation as a parameter of design, we will have pockets with high humidity and high temperature that serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, eventually leading to the spread of malaria. This will happen if we do not be sensitive towards the design aspect."
Pardeshi insisted that the people of Mumbai together must make the city a circular economy. "We are really not that well-prepared, more so because we don't factor in quantitatively climate risk into the design of our infrastructure which we should be doing." The two-day conference which ends on February 28, will cover issues related to climate change and action for tropical coastal cities and will have experts from across specialisations in attendance.