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JNPT relents, clears way for Trans Harbour Link

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Mumbai: 

Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has decided not to press with its demand for a realignment of the ambitious Rs 9,360-crore Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, a development that may hurt its own expansion plans.

The nation's largest container port will be issuing a no objection certificate to the Maharashtra government to go ahead with the much-delayed Harbour Link with the planned alignment, Mr Deora said today. "We feel the project is important for Mumbai. It is important not just for the people, but also for trade to connect Mumbai with the hinterland," he added.

"The reason there was a request for a realignment was because the JNPT was planning its fifth container terminal... The JNPT will be re-looking at what they will do with the fifth terminal now," the Congress MP from South Mumbai told reporters at 14th Maritime States Development Council meeting.

Shipping Secretary P K Sinha said it had boiled down to a point where either the JNPT would have had to redraw its plans for the proposed fifth terminal or the 22-km Harbour Link would need a realignment, that would escalate costs.

The Ministry decided against a new plan considering the stage at which the plans for Harbour Link are right now, he added.

"The JNPT had made a certain alignment for its fifth terminal, but now they will realign their terminal. We will draw a fresh plan," Mr Sinha said.

Shipping Minister GK Vasan said, "for the interest of Mumbaikars, we are ready to realign our terminal."

The 22km sea-link, on the drawing board for over three decades, has off-late gained traction after the Centre expedited steps towards providing Rs 1,920 crore in viability gap funding.

Harbour Link will connect Sewri, on the city's eastern water front, with Nhava Sheva in Raigad district located across the Mumbai Harbour. Once completed the link will massively cut travel to the island city from its satellite townships on the eastern side of the megapolis.

The JNPT had requested that the sea-link's height be raised to 51 metres on a 300-metre stretch to allow safe passage of bigger vessels.

MMRDA, the state's infrastructure planning agency which is steering the project, had opposed the plan as it deemed it unfeasible and expressed willingness to raise the height to only 30-35 metres.

Five consortia - CINTRA-SOMA-SREI, Gammon Infrastructure Projects-OHL Concessions-GS Engineering, GMR Infrastructure-L&T-Samsung C&T Corporation, IRB Infrastructure Developers-Hyundai and Tata Realty and Infrastructure-Autostrade Indian Infrastructure Development-Vinci Concessions Development - have been shortlisted for the mega project.

Contract for the project, which is opposed by environmentalists who claim the migratory birds' habitat of mudflats will be wrecked, is supposed to be awarded by April and construction will start by the year-end.

The elevated freeway bridge, which will be the longest sea-link in the country on completion, received the Environment Ministry's nod last October.

According to some recent reports, the Centre was peeved at JNPT for creating a stumbling block for the project.

JNPT is planning a fifth terminal with a capacity of 8 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) at the Nhava island.

No official from JNPT was immediately available for comment on the issue.

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