NEW DELHI: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has announced that experts from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) have finished the translocation process of 18 corals at Haji Ali and Worli on Monday. These corals were shifted for the construction of the Coastal Road Project in the financial capital. The NIO will submit a report over the next few days, comprising details of the locations and areas where the corals have been translocated.
“We have completed the process and it went fine. We will now go through all the data and complete our report. Then, we will submit our report to BMC soon,” an NIO official told The Sunday Guardian. The project, costing over Rs 12,721 crore, is a 10.58 km project that starts at the Princess Street Flyover and stretches until the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sealink. The project has been facing backlash since the time it was proposed. In 2011, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan proposed the Coastal Road as an alternative to the plan for the Western Freeway. Chavan asked the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to think of building coastal roads instead of capital-intensive sea links. The Sunday Guardian tried to reach out to Chief Engineer (Coastal Road) V.S. Nighot, but didn’t receive any response till the time the story went to the press.
According to reports, corals at Haji Ali have been shifted to Navy Nagar in Colaba and the corals of Worli have been moved away from the region covered by the under-construction area. After the BMC was given the green light to translocate corals by the Principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), wildlife, Nagpur, several environmentalists and citizen groups took to Twitter to register their protests.
Debi Goenka, an environmentalist, had filed a petition to scrap the Coastal Road Project in 2019. He saidtold The Sunday Guardian: “People are against the project because it will not benefit the city. It is meant for private car owners, who are now being subsidised by all the taxpayers in Mumbai, including slum dwellers and bus commuters. The project cost has increased from Rs 100 crore per km to Rs 1,300 crore per km. It is also environmentally destructive and has destroyed the livelihood of hundreds of fisher folk. It has also caused flooding in areas that were never flooded before. The BMC has gone ahead with the project because of political pressure from chief ministers of Congress, followed by BJP, and then Shiv Sena. We can only hope that all the corals have been translocated and that they survive at their new locations. The translocation has been carried out opaquely, and we have no idea whether the people who carried out the translocation have any expertise. We also do not know how the alternative locations were selected.”
Several environmentalists and experts said that there were more coral colonies than identified in surveys. The NIO had identified six coral species at Worli and Haji Ali, as per reports. Out of these, two species belong to the Rhizangiidae family (Oulangia and one unidentified species) with 18 colonies documented across 0.251 sqm in Worli and another species (Dendrophylliidae family) along with Rhizangiidae across 0.11 sqm area at Haji Ali. The species documented are hard corals and are visible during the low tide. Tanmay Shinde, an environmentalist, said: “The BMC translocating corals from Haji Ali to Navy Nagar stretch in South Mumbai for the Coastal road project. The project involves reclaiming over 110 hectares of land from the sea and intertidal rocky shoreline of Mumbai. And this move will further impact the surrounding ecosystem.”
Earlier this week, the BMC has deposited Rs 150.33 crore required for the conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity as per specific conditions under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance. BMC, however, has revised the total construction cost and reduced the applicable funds for marine biodiversity conservation by 31%.