On Tuesday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) denied allegations of corruption and fraud made by BJP legislator Ashish Shelar regarding the development of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s ambitious coastal road project.
”No fraud or irregularities have been committed in the Coastal Road Project undertaken by the BMC. The allegations circulating in this regard are baseless and incorrect. BMC strongly denies all allegations,” said the civic body in a statement, as reported.
According to the BMC, all payments owed to contractors were conducted in accordance with the recommendations of the project management consultants and no payment has been made to contractors unless the work has been completed. “The DPR was prepared by M/s. Stup and E.Y. The draft DPR was published on MCGM website in 2015. The DPR was finalized by M/s. Stup and E.Y. and have been peer-reviewed by M/s. Frishmann Prabhu. The traffic analysis was done in the said DPR. This was also submitted to MCZMA / MOEF & CC,” said the corporation in its statement.
The open space must not be used for any development, residential or commercial purposes. In accordance with the BMC, the committee for the rehabilitation and resettlement of fisherfolks has already been established under the chairmanship of AMC (ES). In addition, the BMC has formed a working group to interact with the fisherfolk and a number of meetings have been conducted. They have appointed the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and have begun work on the project.
“The Supreme Court of India vide order dated December 17, 2019, and dated October 7, 2020, has allowed it to carry out the reclamation, build the road and secure the road for the Coastal Road Project. The development of about 70 hectares as green space to be used as parks, cycle tracks, butterfly park, etc will be developed after Supreme Court allows the development thereon,” added the BMC.
The BMC further said that work is in progress and the landscaping plan is now at a preliminary stage. The general consultant has prepared a preliminary plan, which is in the process of being approved. The actual implementation of landscaping in green open space will be possible only with the approval of the apex court.
BJP MLA Ashish Shelar has accused the BMC of irregularities in the coastal road project. Commenting on the development, Shelar had said, “The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has questioned the coastal road project and this gives a sense that there is corruption in the coastal road project… in the past also I have raised the issue… undue advantage has been given to the consultants and contractors.”
Shelar stated that the project is a dream project for Mumbai, which is why such irregularities must be investigated.
Taking a shot at the Shiv Sena, the BJP has sought answers from the civic administration and the state government regarding the delay in submitting an undertaking to the central Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change that no residential or commercial construction will be permitted along the coastal road. The Centre has also asked why a plan for the prevention of unauthorised constructions alongside the road, and a plan for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the community of fishermen, has not yet been developed and submitted.
At a press conference at the state BJP headquarters in Mumbai on Tuesday, BJP leader Shelar said that he is citing what the CAG said in the report on the coastal road. In his view, “Mumbaikars” deserve to know why reclamation was undertaken in the absence of experts, why traffic analysis was not carried out, and why the detailed project report was flawed as highlighted by the CAG. He said the BJP was not opposed to the project but was pointing out the “irregularities” committed by the corporation.
According to the Times Now Network, a group of Worli fishermen blocked BMC contractors from resuming work on the coastal road on Tuesday. As part of the community’s request, the BMC has increased the space between columns so that boats can navigate between the rocks and strong currents. As against 60 metres, they have demanded a distance of 200 metres between columns. It was pointed out in a letter to the BMC and to Aditya Thackeray, the local MLA, that the sea link in front of Cleveland Bunder is already narrow, and the coastal road connector bridge will add more columns. “The BMC had assured us they would hold a meeting on December 12. On Monday, several men had turned up. Today (Tuesday) they came with a large posse of policemen and started work which we blocked,” said a fisherman. The BMC has formed a committee for the rehabilitation of fishermen.