A panel under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has cleared a key stretch of a major ‘coastal road’ project in Mumbai that will reportedly significantly de-congest the city’s traffic. The go-ahead was given by the Expert Appraisal Committee for Coastal Regulation Zone.The proposed 35 km coastal road has been divided into two parts, a northern and southern stretch. The latter will connect the Princess Street Flyover to the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. It, however, requires reclaiming about 90 hectares of land from the sea and, therefore, as per environment regulations, needs to be cleared by a central authority.On March 17, the Central expert appraisal committee, headed by Deepak Apte of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), had said the project could go ahead provided the coastal road was toll free, did not affect tidal behaviour, that the reclaimed land would not be used to build houses and offices, any resulting open spaces would be free of encroachment, fishermen would be resettled in the area if they were affected, and a dedicated bus lane would be created.The minutes of the meeting were made public on Friday.30-km projectThe Coastal Road-Mumbai (South) will have bridges over the sea, tunnels (two tubes, each of about 3.452 km in length) and elevated roads, and will be a 9.98 km-stretch that will cost ₹5,303 crore. The 30-km project is cumulatively expected to cost ₹12,000 crore.According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the proposed southern stretch of the coastal road will reduce commuting time by around 70%, slash fuel consumption by 34% and cut carbon footprint by about 1,826 tonnes of CO2 per annum.Though the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party government has claimed that the project would be ready by 2019, The Hindu reported last month that the much-delayed project was likely to move again following Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s visit to Union Environment Minister Anil Dave.In January 2016, the BMC presented the application for CRZ clearance to the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) with an estimated cost of ₹14,153 crore for an approximate length of 33.77 km. By the time MCZMA recommended the proposal, the total length was reduced to 30.07 km. In its recommendation to the MoEFCC, the MCZMA has put forward 28 specific conditions. It has specifically asked the BMC to take high court permission before clearing mangroves, if any.Impact on fisherfolkIt has also observed that the coastal road will have an impact on the nearby habitats of traditional coastal communities. It has asked the civic body to ensure navigational channels are not blocked in koliwada (fishing village) areas and that fishing activity is not hampered.