The Maharashtra government’s decision to increase the height of the mid-sea Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial may lead to delays in obtaining clearances for the project. In a setback to the state government, an expert panel of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has sought more information before granting approval for amendment in the environmental clearance for the proposed construction in the Arabian Sea.
It comes after the state government made changes in the project and submitted an application seeking approval for amendment in Environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) granted in February 2015. In March, the state government increased the height of the proposed Shivaji statue from 192 metre to 210 metre to make it the tallest statue in the world. It has proposed to erect an equestrian statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on a reclaimed island in the Arabian Sea. The project is estimated to cost Rs 3,600 crore.
The expert panel, in its meeting held last week, noted that the proposed amendment includes increase in sea wall height, pedestal height and size, change in mode of transportation of construction material and change in ‘armour layer’ material of breakwater. After detailed deliberations, the panel sought additional information about the environmental impact of the proposed changes on the marine biota and fishery activities with others and recommendation of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) for the proposed modification.
“Is reclamation of the island a part of the project or the reclaimed island already exists?” asked the expert panel seeking information about the “impact on island ecology”. The panel has also sought details of disposal of effluents from desalination plant, the need for public hearing and whether or not it was done earlier along with details of the PIL in Bombay High Court and a case filed in the National Green Tribunal (Western Bench), Pune.
The project is one of the flagship programmes of the BJP-led government in the state with major political implications. In December last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the memorial by performing the ‘jal-poojan’. The deferment in the clearance from the MoEF is likely to delay the project further.
As per the information given by the Public Works Department (PWD) to the expert panel, the monument includes 126-metre high equestrian statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj placed on a two-tiered pedestal of 84-metre height reaching an overall height of 210 metre. The pedestal would accommodate a series of elevators to approach the base of the statue and also house a museum and a virtual reality based immersive experience for visitors. The department further said an appropriate corrosion resistant bronze alloy will be considered for the surface of the sculpture. It has also proposed to erect a fortified wall of 14 metre around the island to protect the area from sea water.
As per the PWD proposal, around 13.15 hectare (for phase I and II) has been proposed to be developed with various ancillary facilities like an art museum, amphitheatre and a helipad complex, exhibition gallery, landscaping, open space of viewing and galleries, cafeteria, lavatories, stalls and offices. The project also includes security installations for safety and disaster management system, waste water treatment, solid waste management facility, environmental safeguards facilities, berthing jetty for embarkation and disembarkation of tourists, 10-bed hospital and 120-bed staff quarters.
PWD officials said queries raised by the expert panel of MoEF would be clarified. “There is nothing difficult in it,” said an official stating that the state has received approval for the statue to go up to 192 metre height.