Mumbai: India’s first and longest ropeway to connect Mumbai with the famous Elephanta Island in the Arabian Sea is planned to be constructed by the Mumbai Port Trust, officials said here on Monday.
The 8-km ropeway will begin from Sewri in Mumbai’s east coast and end at Raigad district’s Elephanta Island, globally renowned for Elephanta Caves, a Unesco World Heritage site.
Mumbai Port Trust Deputy Chief Engineer P.K. Sinha said there will be few stops en route and that the cable height, capacity of cars and other technical details are being worked out.
Declining to reveal the project cost, he said it will be India’s first ropeway across the sea. Discussions and planning for the project similar to the ones in foreign countries like France, Singapore, and China were on for over three years.
Last week, a pre-bid meeting convened by MbPT was attended by a handful of top consortiums with technical expertise to implement it. Known locally as Gharapuri Caves, the small 16 sq. km island has several archaeological remains pointing to its rich cultural heritage, including the famous temples carved out of rocks.
There has been evidence of settlement on the island from 2nd century BC, but the rock-cut temples are believed to have been constructed around 5th-6th century AD. MbPT spokesperson V.R. Jogalekar said the proposed ropeway will offer a magnificent view of mudflats on the east coast, which come alive during the flamingo season, the mangroves and the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link to the north.
The approximately 40-minute ride by a 20-seater cable car, with a transit station midway will prove to be a major boost to tourism. At present, approximately 5,000 domestic and foreign tourists visit the island, inhabited by around 1,200 residents, mostly fisherfolk and farmers, in three tiny port villages called Rajbandar, Shentbandar and Morabandar.
From the main jetty, tourists can hop aboard a toy train which takes them to the base of the hill, a distance of around 600 metres, for the climb up to the caves complex.
Accessible only by ferries from the mainland or motor launches from the Gateway of India, it takes around an hour for the 10-km cruise from Mumbai and vice versa.
For nearly three decades, the island hosts the famed two-day Elephanta Cultural Festival in winters, organised by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, attracting the best of performers.
Overnight stay is not permitted for outsiders on the island which has a thick forest, and a dam to conserve freshwater collected during monsoons. Two British-era canons rest atop a hill on the island, which offer great view of the mainland and Mumbai on the eastern side.