Centre’s in-principle nod to offshore Shivaji memorial structure

Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) In a pre-election year boost to the ruling Democratic Front government, the centre has granted “in-principle” approval to the proposed Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial in the Arabian Sea, off Mumbai coast.

The in-principle approval followed a meeting with union Minister for Environment and Forests Jayanti Natarajan here during the day, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said Thursday evening.

The project falls under the stringent CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone)-4, where no development is permitted. However, treating this as a special case, the centre has given its in-principle nod, Chavan told media persons.

“This project is of great significance, owing to its historical and emotional values, and hence we have granted in-principle approval as a special case,” Natarajan said on the occasion.

“We have secured the in-principle approval. Now we shall make a detailed project report,” Chavan said.

In the past few years, after studying several locations, the state government selected a rocky patch in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai, around four km offshore.

The proposal has been a subject of discussion within and outside the Maharashtra legislature, and in the past decade all political parties have insisted on a grand memorial structure to be dedicated to the 17th century warrior king.

As per tentative plans, the government plans to erect the grand memorial on the lines of the State of Liberty off New York harbour, on an 18-hectare islet at the selected spot.

Incidentally, Thursday’s developments come as victory of sorts for Chavan, who had assured the people of the state a year ago that his government would secure the centre’s clearance for the mega-project in a year.

Earlier this year, Chavan assured the legislature that though there would not be any financial constraints for the project, estimated to cost around one billion rupees, it would be difficult to commit to a time-frame for its completion, since there could be technical hurdles to face along the way.

The monument, for which 40 different approvals are mandatory, is proposed to be constructed in such a manner that it would withstand natural calamities especially since the Mumbai coast experiences stormy monsoons every year.

A high-level committee of experts had gone into all aspects of the proposed iconic memorial in 2005 with the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue likely to be 309 feet tall, taller than the Statue of Liberty.

After the state government’s green signal in June 2008, around 11 international firms had submitted competitive bids to construct the sea memorial.

The complex envisages an imposing statue of Shivaji, a garden surrounding it, an open air theatre for people who would be treated to multilingual audio-visual shows, a cafeteria, a museum with an exhibition on Chhatrapati Shivaji’s life and times, his belongings and other historical articles, besides other amenities.

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