Mumbai moves: First stretches of Metro, Monorail start this year

NAT

Another problem lies underground: a mesh of utilities for water and sewerage, not clearly mapped. When authorities started digging to lay pile foundations, they often struck utilities unmarked on civic maps. At times the utilities had to be diverted or cased; in extreme cases minor alterations had to be made to the design. "There were unexpected utilities at the location of almost every pier. We had 360 pier locations in the first phase and 430 in the second phase. We try to divert such utilities but that needs permission from the civic body and it takes nearly one month to get one approval processed, leading to delays," said a junior MMRDA engineer working on the monorail.

Hurdle and innovation

Land acquisition is proving the key issue for the later projects too. To build the MTHL, a 22-km link across the city's harbour connecting Sewri in the island city and Nhava Sheva in Navi Mumbai, the state needed to acquire nearly 125 hectares, 22 per cent of it private land.

"About 28 hectares need to be acquired from private owners in the villages of Gavan, Jasai and Chirle located in Uran taluk, and local resistance can create an obstacle," an engineer said.

For projects where land is required on a large scale, such as the 126-km Virar-Alibaug Multimodal Corridor, the state is looking at newer methods of acquisition. The MMRDA has to acquire 1,261 hectares, a substantial part of it farmland. It plans to adopt a model extensively followed in Gujarat, with project-affected people made stakeholders. This is done by acquiring more land than required, developing the excess land with infrastructure, and then giving project-affected people plots on the developed land. The MMRDA is waiting for an amendment in the current town planning scheme to make this possible.

For the underground Metro, the MMRDA has to acquire less land but it is facing local resistance at a couple of places. The Churchgate-Virar elevated rail corridor too is stuck, pending an agreement with the state government so that land acquisition can be easier.

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