Equipped with cutting-edge Japanese technology, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL), also known as the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Sewri Nhava Sheva Atal Setu, promises to cut short the arduous two-hour-long journey between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai to a mere 20-minute ride. The project, which has been nearly six years in the making, will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.
The project, built at a cost of almost ₹20,000 crore, is being branded as a boon to Mumbaikars, who normally have to drive 42 km between the two destinations through endless traffic. The Atal Setu instead spans 22 km, and aims to save hours of travel time and litres of fuel, said Sanjay Mukherjee, Metropolitan Commissioner of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).
“The line originates at Sewri in south Mumbai, and terminates at Chirle near Nhava Sheva in Navi Mumbai, but also provides interchanges at Sewri, Shivajinagar, State Highway-54 and NH-348, extending much-needed connectivity to Pune, Goa and parts of southern India,” said Mr. Mukherjee.
Touted as India’s longest sea bridge, the six-lane project comprises a 16.5 km-long sea bridge, and a 5.5 km-long elevated road on land. The bridge, according to officials, is designed to carry a daily capacity of 70,000 vehicles travelling at an average speed of 100 km per hour.
The project boasts of a variety of progressive materials and technology – the body of the bridge itself has been constructed with corrosion-resistant material that promises to stand firm against earthquakes, cyclones, high wind pressures and tides. The bridge is also fitted with technology to oversee a smooth commute, including an Intelligent Traffic Management system, Video Incident Detection system, Speed Enforcement system, emergency call boxes, and more. The entire stretch of the Atal Setu will also be monitored by a comprehensive surveillance system, while the toll management process will incorporate Open Road Tolling to facilitate the connection of tolls without interrupting the passage of vehicles.
The project is expected to generate substantial growth in and around Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, thanks to the heightened accessibility it will provide to once-remote areas, and make way for economic growth across various fields that would augment employment opportunities.
“The intuitive placement of interchanges at strategic locations allows easier connectivity within Mumbai, and to Goa and Pune on a grander scale. A consistent increase in business opportunities and economic growth will be just one of the many positive outcomes of the Atal Setu,” said Mr. Mukherjee.
Sustainable development, however, remains a key plank – the act of reducing travel time and therefore cutting fuel consumption alone is a major tactical move aimed at preserving the environment, said the MMRDA Metropolitan Commissioner.
MMRDA officials said that while building the bridge, preserving mangroves and mudflats, and securing the natural habitat of migratory birds, was emphasised. The privacy of sensitive areas including the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the oil terminals belonging to the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited has also been protected with the help of visual barriers.
However, people residing on the coast feel otherwise. According to Nandakumar Waman Pawar, president of the Maharashtra Small-Scale Traditional Fish Workers’ Union, traditional fishing communities will have to pay a heavy price for all the development projects being carried out in fishing zones without their consent.
“The entire Atal Setu project has been built on hundreds of concrete pillars constructed in intertidal fishing zones. Moreover, the cumulative impact of all these coastal projects has not been considered yet. The deposition of sediments in these zones has wreaked havoc on the ecology of these areas, leading to hundreds of hectares of rich fishing zones being transformed into thick mangrove cover, which impacts biodiversity as well as the thousands of traditional fishers,” said Mr. Pawar, adding that local traditional fishers possess exclusive rights to the fishing zones as per Maharashtra Revenue Land Code, 1966, under Article 20.