Undersea tunnel: New idea mooted to reach site of Shivaji memorial in Arabian Sea during monsoon

Vishwas Waghmode
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According to government estimates, around 10,000 tourists are expected to visit the memorial site daily after completion of the work.

An undersea tunnel, by which visitors can access the proposed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj memorial site in the Arabian Sea in bad weather during monsoon, is the latest idea to emerge from the committee monitoring the implementation of the project.

Vinayak Mete, the head of the memorial’s project implementation monitoring and co-ordination committee, has sought the construction of a tunnel connecting the memorial to the shore on the ground that it would not be possible to reach the proposed Shivaji statue by boat when the sea becomes rough during monsoon.

Mete, who has helmed the committee since January 2016, and was appointed to the post by the previous BJP-led state government, raised the idea in a meeting on January 27. The minutes of the meeting were issued on Monday.

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“Majority of the (committee) members present said that it is not possible to reach the memorial site during monsoon and bad weather by boats. The representatives of the project’s contractor, Larsen and Toubro, also mentioned about difficulties in traveling to the site for three months during monsoon,” said Mete as per the minutes of the meeting.

He added that one has to be prepared for water, electricity and disaster management for all seasons. “So, for all these reasons and to ferry tourists during monsoon, a tunnel should be built from Girgaon or any other place. The public works department should gather information and submit a report on it in the next meeting,” Mete said.

He further asked for details about the safest sea route to reach the memorial site, types of boats and permissions required from Maharashtra Maritime Board, Mumbai Port Trust and Navy.

According to government estimates, around 10,000 tourists are expected to visit the memorial site daily after completion of the work. The government had announced that this would be the tallest statue in the world.

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Sources said that multiple options had been considered to ferry tourists to the site, other than by boat. These options included building a ropeway, underwater tunnel, elevated monorail and pedestrian bridge. Each idea had been termed unviable.

The matter regarding safety of tourists had come up after one person died in a boat mishap en route to the ‘bhoomipujan’ for the proposed statue of Shivaji in the Arabian Sea in October 2018.

“The Maharashtra Maritime Board took more than a year to complete the probe into the boat mishap.... There is also failure on part of the authority in issuing guidelines to prevent such mishaps in future. Ideally, the fact that the project site will not be accessible during monsoon should have been pointed out in the Environment Impact Assessment report in 2014,” said vice-admiral (retd) I C Rao, president of NGO APLI Mumbai, which has been opposing the memorial on environmental and safety grounds.

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The proposed memorial — 212 m in height, including a 123.2-m equestrian statue standing atop an 88.8-m pedestal — was the flagship project of the previous Devendra Fadnavis government. It is expected to cost Rs 3600 crore. Questions had been raised about the economic feasibility of the memorial, which is to be built over 1.5 km inside the sea. The construction of the sea tunnel, a first in India, is likely to escalate the cost further.

Currently, work on the project is stalled. The PWD, in January 2019, had asked the contractor to stop work days after the Supreme Court, while hearing a special leave petition, orally asked the state not to proceed with the construction of the statue.

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