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Monday, June 17, 2024

Fishermen Dispute NIO’s Opinion About Navigation Span for Boats at Mumbai Coastal Road

The fishermen threaten to resume agitation if higher navigation span is not approved

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Raju Vernekar
Raju Vernekar
Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

INDIA. MUMBAI: The fishermen have disputed the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO)’s opinion that a span of 60m between the pillars is adequate to ensure the movement of boats and has threatened to stall the work of the Mumbai Coastal Road if the higher span is not approved.

A 22.2 km long coastal road is being constructed at Rs 12,700 crore connecting Cuffe Parade in the South to Kandivali in the North of Mumbai. It will have 08 lanes, and the road is projected to be used by over 130,000 vehicles daily. The road is expected to reduce travel time between South Mumbai and the Western Suburbs from 2 hours to 40 minutes.

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The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (BMC) on Wednesday released the report of the NGO, a part of the Council Of Scientific And Industrial Research(CSIR–NIO), a Central Government organization, recommending that the distance of 60 m between the pillars should be sufficient to allow smooth movement of the boats.

Out of 10 pillars affecting the Worli fishermen’s, the work on the pillars 01 to 05 is nearing completion, while the work on the pillars 06 to 10 is yet to begin. However, the Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Matsya Vyavsay Sahakari Society Ltd (WKNMVSL) and Worli Koliwada Sarvoday Sahakari Society Ltd (WKSL), the fishermens’ bodies, have questioned the basis of the NIO’s opinion. They have indicated the spots where the higher span between the pillars has been approved.

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“We have been demanding that the navigation span for the coastal road interchange at Cleveland Bunder, Worli in South Central Mumbai, be increased to 200m since the existing distance of 60m poses a risk to our lives. We were never consulted while planning the project. When work on the interchange at Worli commenced last year, we had no option but to force stop the construction work,” Damodar Tandel, president of the WKNMVSL and WKSL, told the Transcontinental Times.

“In an online meeting held on January 06, the government officials refused to acknowledge our practical experience of navigation. They insisted on a technical study to ascertain the minimum distance and asked us to submit a report within 15 days on safe navigation. In the meeting, the State Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray insisted that work on the pillars 01 to 05 be allowed to continue and the stalled work resumed very next day”.

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“We consulted Dr. Surendra Thakurdesai, Head, Geography department at the Gogate college in Ratnagiri (Konkan region) for a technical study. After evaluating the data produced by NIO and Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), on the wave and tidal environment at the navigation channel at Cleveland bunder, he opined that it is rocky, shallow and has higher turbulence and the existing navigation span is insufficient and a minimum span of 160 meters would be required for safe passage.” However, now the BMC has been saying that the “opinion” expressed by NIO that a span of 60m is adequate is correct.

Tandel said that the NIO’s conclusions are flawed for the following reasons: Its opinion is based on the standards for inland fishing harbors where waters are still and not exposed to strong currents. The NIO has failed to acknowledge the impact of strong waves and currents in this precarious location in the open sea.

The NIO report states that boats are not stationary floating bodies and they are motorized vessels having controlled movement. They cannot drift due to waves or wave-induced littoral currents. But the NIO should realize that the boats cannot be compared to cars driven along defined motorable roads. The strong winds could lead to a change in direction or vessels drifting in the open sea. The harbors and entrances to harbors are safeguarded against littoral drift worldwide, including in India. But the NIO claims that the littoral drift will not impact the movement of the boats.

The MMB, which surveys depths in nearshore areas, has indicated the shallow rocky nature of the sea bed near the Cleveland bunder in its hydrographic charts. These rocks add to the risk of collision and make water more turbulent.

The BMC has proposed using “fenders” on the pillars, which are special equipment designed to provide a cushioning effect to boats when they experience collision against other vessels or piers. Besides, CCTV will be installed. Surprisingly the BMC, insisting that a 60m navigation span is adequate, also admits that accidents may occur and has made a provision for insurance compensation in case of boat wreckage.

The coastal road will be connected to the Bandra-Versova Sea link (BVSL) (North Mumbai). The navigation span provided by the BMC at Cuffe Parade is 100m. Similarly, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), supervising the BVSL project, has permitted the span of 120m to 150m in the Chimbai, Khar Danda, and Juhu areas (northwest Mumbai). If it is possible to provide larger spans for the navigation of fishing boats at other locations along the same stretch of the coast, why is it not possible to increase the span at Cleveland Bunder in Worli? Tandel asked

The Union Environment Ministry gave clearance to the coastal road project under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) based on the requirement of a good navigation span. As such, the work of the interchange beyond pillar five cannot be continued in violation of the CRZ norms. We will hold the BMC solely responsible for any mishap or loss of life.

“We want Thackeray, Additional Municipal Commissioner Ashwini Bhide, and the BMC’s Chief Engineer to visit the site immediately as agreed earlier so that they can understand the difficulties faced by us,” Tandel said.

Meanwhile, 53% of the work has been completed, and the project is expected to be ready by December 2023.

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  • Raju Vernekar

    Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

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