The Union Environment Ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) matters has given its approval for the construction of an 8,100km-long undersea, transnational fibre optic cable system connecting Mumbai to Singapore, via Chennai.
The cable system will terminate in Mumbai at Versova beach, as per the minutes of the EAC meeting held on July 7, 2022, and will boost telecom connectivity between India and other Asian countries, namely Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, according to a Hindustan Times report.
The project is officially known as the Myanmar/Malaysia-India-Singapore Transit (MIST) Submarine Cable System and is being executed by the global technology provider NEC Corp. This will be the 17th such optical fibre cable system to land in Mumbai, and is expected to be ready for service sometime in 2023.
The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) recommended the project for CRZ clearance to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on June 10 this year. Out of the total 8,100km length of the cable system, about 202.06km are located in the CRZ boundary of Maharashtra.
“Though the project had applied for CRZ clearance as early as March last year, the dissolution of the former MCZMA and a delay in its reconstitution by the Centre delayed this important clearance. This is a project of immense importance to global communications and will have a minimal footprint on Mumbai’s coastal environment,” said a member of the MCZMA.
The report further added that the union environment ministry has cautioned the project proponent NTT Communications India Network Services “to not hinder the fishing activity in the area” around Versova Beach. In the same meeting, the cable system’s landing site in Chennai, at Santhome Beach, was also given CRZ clearance.
At the time of the project’s announcement in December 2019, NTT had said the total cost of the MIST project was pegged at around USD 400 million, though the cost of building the beach manhole at Versova to house the cable is only around ₹32 crore.
The 17 submarine cable projects mentioned above include six upcoming undersea cables which will connect with Mumbai between 2023 and 2025, including the MIST. Two of them are Reliance Jio Infocomm’s India Asia Xpress (IAX), connecting India to the Maldives, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and the India Europe Xpress (IEX) which will connect India to Italy via Saudi Arabia and Greece.
Others include the SeaMeWe-6 project, owned by a consortium of telecom providers, which will connect Singapore to France via India, Bangladesh, Maldives, and the multi-stakeholder-owned Africa2 cable, which will connect India with the United Kingdom via several African countries.