MTHL back on track ?

Environmental clearance to the Navi Mumbai airport has set the 22.5-km Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) plan between Nhava and Sewri, rolling again. Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh announced his ministry has already given eco-clearance to the project. The announcement will now put the onus on the state government for getting the project, which has been discussed for over three decades, from the drawing board to the ground. The Rs 8000-crore project, that will reduce travel time to Navi Mumbai by almost half an hour, has been stuck due to intense lobbying between state infrastructure agencies. According to top sources in the government, competition between the NCP-dominated Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and Congress-dominated Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to bag the project has stalled the bidding process. The cash-rich MMRDA claims that since its new plan incorporated the metro rail, it was a more comprehensive design. However the cash-starved MSRDC, which recently received Rs 2,100 crore, has drawn up a plan where the metro will run below the road. “Both plans will be discussed by the cabinet, especially chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, only then work could be allotted to either of the agencies. Former CM Ashok Chavan had favoured the MMRDA but in the new scenario things might change,” said a senior official, pointing out that the airport might lead the state to decide on MTHL soon. Government officials said on Monday that state PWD minister Jayant Shirsagar is likely to approach the chief minister with an appeal that the project be undertaken by the MSRDC. For around 40 lakh residents of South Mumbai, the MTHL, a 22-km sea link between Nhava and Sewri, will help avoid use of the Sion-Panvel highway to reach the airport or Pune and thus bring down air pollution and also save time. “This will help even the overall plan to decongest Mumbai and avoid pollution on roads,” said Patel. Navi Mumbai is also hosting the special economic zone close to the airport. It may be recalled that developers had refused to buy the MTHL project following the recession in late 2008. The link was first proposed by the late JRD Tata in the late seventies. Later late Dhirubhai Ambani urged for its construction but frequent bid failures marred the plan.

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