Just a week into being sworn in, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has decided to review key projects that were approved by former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government has made farm loan waivers their priority, but does this mean key infra projects sanctioned in the last five years will languish on the backburner for a while?
While CM Thackeray stated that ‘reviewing’ the projects did not mean imposing a ban on them, not much else has been clarified about the projects in question and their future.
“We have not imposed any ban on any project in the meeting today, there will be emphasis on speedy implementation of all the projects. We have not taken any decision on bullet train project yet.”Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Chief Minister to ANI
Opposition BJP, meanwhile, questioned the government’s intentions. BJP leader Kirit Somaiyya wrote to Thackeray seeking answers.
Here’s a look at a few projects initiated by the previous Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government that, sources say, are now likely to be under the scanner to see if they need to be prioritised.
Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Corridor
This ambitious project is expected to cut travel time between Mumbai and Nagpur to just eight hours, almost half of what it is now. The ‘Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg’, also known as Mumbai Nagpur Super Communication Expressway, is expected to be about 701 km long with eight lanes.
The expressway is expected to run through 10 districts in Maharashtra: Thane, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Jalna, Aurangabad, Buldana, Washim, Amravati, Wardha and Nagpur. The project is estimated to cost approximately Rs 46,000 crore and was expected to be completed by 2022 according to PWD Minister Eknath Shinde as reported by the Navbharat Times.
A consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India have agreed to finance the project, reported Business Standard. Meanwhile, 13 companies have been selected to develop 16 packages the project has been divided into.
According to reports, the companies that have been awarded the packages include, Megha Engineering & Infrastructures, Afcons Infrastructure, NCC, PNC Infratech, Sadbhav Engineering, Apco Infratech, Reliance Infrastructure, Iron Triangle, Larsen & Toubro, Gayatri Projects, Dilip Buildcon, GVPR Engineers, and Navayuga Engineering Company.
The Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra) bagged a contract worth Rs 1,907 crore from the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) for one of the packages in the project, reported The Hindu Business Line.
About 22 percent of the work on the project has already been completed.
Mumbai Coastal Road
The Mumbai Coastal Road has been stirring up controversy since its inception. The key idea of the project was to decongest Mumbai’s arterial roads. It is expected to cut down the travel time from South Mumbai to the Northern parts of the city from 120 minutes to around 40 minutes.
The eight-lane expressway, covering a distance of 29.2 kms, is expected to be used by nearly 1,30,000 vehicles daily. The mega project, that is set to cost about Rs 12,700 crore, has pitted environmentalists against the Maharashtra government over its impact on the ecosystem in and around the city.
Construction along the designated site began in 2018. However, work came to a screeching halt in July 2019 after the Bombay High Court quashed the Coastal Regulation Zone clearances to the project. The High Court cited lack of proper scientific study as it stopped all work on the site.
Contracts on the project were granted to L&T and HCC, in a joint venture with Hyundai Development Corporation.
Mumbai Metro Car Shed in Aarey Colony
While other infrastructure projects are only being reviewed for now, the controversial Mumbai Metro car shed in Aarey colony, has been completely halted. CM Thackeray and Sena leader Aditya Thackeray had made their opposition to cutting trees to make way for the car shed clear even while in alliance with the BJP-led government.
Halting the construction of the metro 3 carshed has been one of the key promises of the Thackeray government as they campaigned for the Assembly elections held in October 2019. Intended to be built to accommodate the metro trains, the car shed was supposed to be built on 33 hectares of land in Aarey Colony. Over 2,600 trees were to be felled to make way for the construction.
On 4 October, when the Bombay High Court rejected pleas filed by activists against the felling of trees, the MMRCL razed about 2,400 trees overnight, sparking massive protests by environmental activists and Mumbaikars. The Supreme Court, soon after, put a stay on further felling of trees.
Contracts for the Mumbai Metro Line-3 have been awarded to five contractors for different packages – a joint venture between L&T and STEC, China, HCC and MMS, DOGUS-SOMA JV, CEC-ITD CEM-TPL JV and J Kumar & CRTG, reported Business Standard.
The future of the project is uncertain.
Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Corridor
The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train is not a top priority for the Uddhav Thackeray government. Estimated to cost around Rs 1.10 lakh crore, the project is being built with help from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The JICA is funding 81% of the total project cost through a 50-year loan at an interest rate of 0.1%.
According to reports, 705 hectares out of the required 1,380 hectares for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor has been acquired. Only 81 hectares of the 431 hectares required in Maharashtra, have been acquired, reported India Today.
The entire project is being divided into 27 packages. Livemint quoted Achal Khare, the Managing Director of the NHSRCL, who said, “We have already issued tenders for four major civil work packages, including the under-sea tunnel in Maharashtra. We hope that the work would start by March or April next year when the works will be awarded to the agencies.”
Construction for the project was expected to begin by March 2020. However, it has been facing stiff opposition from tribals and farmers whose lands are being acquired for it.
Mumbai Trans Harbour link
Another project that’s likely to be under the scanner is the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, also known as the Sewri Nhava Sheva Connector. The 22-km-long bridge is estimated to cost over Rs 17,000 crore and be implemented in three packages. The project is being executed by the MMRDA and is expected to reduce travel time between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai to 25 minutes.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is also involved in Packages 1 and 3 of the project along with L&T and IHI. Other contractors include Daewoo and Tata Projects.
So far, only 14 percent of the project has been completed, reported Free Press Journal.
With faster connectivity to the Navi Mumbai International Airport from Mumbai city, one of the project’s selling points has been the decongestion of Mumbai.