Yogesh Naik, Mumbai Mirror, 11 March 2019
Residents of several South Mumbai localities spent their Sunday holiday in a different way.
Carrying placards and hoardings, scores of citizens from localities such as Bhulabhai Desai Road, Pedder Road, Nepean Sea Road, Malabar Hill, Altamount Road, Worli and other adjoining areas stepped out in the blistering heat to protest the state government’s ambitious coastal road project, which they claim would cause damages to the environment and ecology.
The residents, who have also been complaining of pollution and sleepless nights because of the disturbances caused by ongoing construction work, had gathered at Breach Candy’s Tata Garden for bringing out the morcha. However, they were prohibited by the police from progressing further.
The coastal road is proposed to run along the city’s west coast.
One of the residents, Sooni Taraporevala, said, “We are against reclamation of coastal land for the project. It is nothing but a gimmick for creating prime real estate with taxpayers’ money. The so-called green spaces that will be created are only 12 per cent of the reclaimed land. As it is, the sea level is rising. Mumbai already has a huge flooding problem and the coastal road is a disaster in the making. BMC should instead use its money to build better schools and hospitals instead of the most expensive road in India.”
Bittu Sahgal, Editor of Sanctuary Asia, added, “In the haste to push through large projects, the people in authority are upsetting citizens and leaving Mumbai in the unenviable position of being not future-ready to cope with potential threats like the 2015 flooding of Mithi river. We deserve better.”
Activist Zoru Bhathena lauded the citizens for taking out time to hit the streets for a cause. “It was great to have so many concerned citizens out to protest against unnecessary reclamation for the coastal road. Most people don’t even know what is going on, as the government doesn’t reveal its actual plan. Our peaceful march was unfortunately stopped by the police, who did more hungama than us.”
Debi Goenka of Bombay Environmental Action Group pointed out, “It is shocking that reclamation work is going on without environmental clearance. The CRZ clearance conditions are also being violated. The damage that is being done is irreversible. Instead of prosecuting the MCGM, the police are cracking down on peaceful citizens. This is really shocking.”
Congress leader Susieben Shah lashed out at the cops for stopping the peaceful protest and “physically restraining” the residents. “The police were informed well in advance about our peaceful protest, what was mainly to seek answers about how can the project decongest the city and traffic disbursal.
BJP legislator Mangal Prabhat Lodha also supported the residents, saying that the BMC must be transparent and honest with the residents.
Gokul Singh Patil, senior inspector of Gamdevi police, said, “Susieben Shah of the Congress had asked us permission for the morcha. But we refused. Mangal Prabhat Lodha asked the residents to take a rally. He also came and sat on the road, but the residents did not join him. We are not registering a case against residents.”
BJP legislator Mangal Prabhat Lodha squatted on the road when the police stopped the morcha from progressing further from Tata Garden. (Right) Several youngsters joined the protest