Centre may ask JNPT to rework expansion plan to avoid changes in MTHL layout

Port trust had asked MMRDA to increase the height of trans-harbour link

The Centre is likely to prevail over Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) to rework its expansion plan and make way for the execution of the showpiece Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL). The 22-km sea bridge will connect Mumbai with its satellite city Navi Mumbai, beginning from Sewri in south Mumbai and terminating at Nhava Sheva.

In a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Secretary Jayant Kumar Banthia and Metropolitan Commissioner Rahul Asthana, Shipping Secretary PK Sinha is learnt to have said the Centre would do away with the last stumbling blocks in the planning stages of the Sewri-Nhava link. JNPT may be asked to rework its expansion plan so that it does not impact the sea link project at the final stages.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) likely to soon call for bids for the ambitious project, but JNPT's current plans may bring the project back to the drawing board. "The shipping secretary agreed that we have already done a lot of work on the project. He agreed that the JNPT needs to rework its expansion plans," Asthana said. JNPT will either need to change the location of the additional capacity proposed for the port or reduce the scope of the expansion to ensure that it does not come in the path of the 22-km MTHL, he added.

Long after the MMRDA froze the alignment and basic drawings of MTHL, the JNPT last month requested a slight change in the alignment of the project. The port trust asked MMRDA to raise the height of the link to 51 metres for a 300-metre span as the project was coming in the way of the port's expansion plans. A height of 51 metres is equivalent to a 17-storey building, assuming one storey is three metres tall. The link is proposed to be built at a height of 25 metres.

In the meeting, Asthana explained to Sinha that a change at this minute will badly hit the project, which was in the planning stages for more than three decades, considering the city's development agency has already shortlisted consortia, obtained the requisite clearances and the central government's commitment to fund 20 per cent of the project cost.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the issue, saying it would be difficult to consider JNPT's request at this stage.

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