Mumbai: The Maharashtra government Thursday told the Bombay High Court it was considering levying charges on visitors of the proposed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj memorial in the Arabian Sea to recover part of the Rs 3,600 crore project cost. Senior counsel V A Thorat, appearing for the state government, told a division bench of Chief Justice N H Patil and Justice G S Kulkarni that a decision to this effect was yet to be taken.
The bench was hearing petitions filed against the project claiming it to be “illogical and uncalled for”. The petitions criticised the government for spending Rs 3,600 crore on the memorial even though the state was reeling under a drought-like situation and facing several other more important issues which needed attention.
“The government is considering charging people who wish to visit the statue. This way the government can recover part of the project cost. A decision on this is yet to be taken,” Thorat told the court. He added that the government has examined each and every aspect, including safety and environmental issues, before beginning work on the project. He further said a disaster management and evacuation plan was also in place.
“All environmental clearances have been given for the project. In fact, on June 15 this year, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) authority has given the government permission to increase the height of the statue from 192 metres to 210 metres,” Thorat said. “In June this year, the government entered into an agreement with Larsen and Toubro for the project. Work has commenced last month and the project is expected to be completed in 36 months,” Thorat said.
Senior counsel Mihir Desai, appearing for one of the petitioners, said over 16,000 fishermen were affected as the area around the proposed statue was declared a no-fishing zone. The court then sought to know from the government as to why no public hearing was held before starting work on the project.
To this, Thorat said public hearing was required only in those cases where a project affects human habitation. The petitioners sought an interim stay on the work of the memorial pending hearing and final disposal of the petitions. The court, after hearing the arguments, said it would pass orders on Friday.
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