03:33 GMT +323 July 2018
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    Ships are seen anchored in the Arabian sea following following the closure of the Mumbai port after a maritime accident involving the cargo ship MSC Chitra off the Mumbai coast on August 11, 2010

    India to Spend $530 Million on 630 Foot Tall Statue in Arabian Sea

    © AFP 2018 / Indranil MUKHERJEE
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    The Indian government has announced the beginning of construction of Shiv Smarak, which will, upon completion, be the largest statue in the world. India’s prime minister Narendra Modi will personally lay the foundation stone for the project, which is estimated to cost 3,600 crore (about $530 million).

    The statue, located on the Arabian Sea about two miles from Mumbai, will be of Shivaji Bhonsle, the celebrated 17th-century king of India's Maratha Empire. Known for his ability as both an administrator and warrior, Shivaji is a nationalist hero to many in India. The world's tallest statue at present is the Spring Temple Buddha in China, which stands over 500 feet tall. Once completed, Shiv Smarak will dwarf the Buddha by over 100 feet.

    The statue is being funded by the state government of Maharashtra, which houses Mumbai. According to the Times of India, the money being spent on the statue is roughly equal to the annual health budget of Mumbai. The article notes that this budget is "used to run four medical colleges, five specialty hospitals and 16 peripheral hospitals, besides a strong network of over 170 municipal dispensaries and primary health centres in each ward." The statue's budget also exceeds Mumbai's education budget as well as the budget for a project to provide clean drinking water to villages in Maharashtra.

    Vinod Tawde, Maharahstra's Cultural Affairs Minister, said, "When it comes to the cost for the Shivaji memorial, we are not looking at the budget. Money will not fall short for this project. All we want is to give a befitting tribute to the great leader."

    In addition to monetary concerns, conservationists have filed a petition with India's National Green Tribunal (NGT) to stop the construction as they believe it will cause large-scale ecological damage which will adversely affect the lives of 150,000 Maharashtra fishermen and their families. "The government is not interested in protecting the environment and the rights of the fishing community. Our livelihood is at stake. Most of these families do not have an alternative source of income," said Damodar Tandel, a president of a local fishing community. The Maharashtra government called the petition "wholly baseless, misconceived and unsubstantiated" and asked the NGT to dismiss the petition.

    An Indian Express article suggested that the statue is being constructed now primarily because of the upcoming January 2017 Mumbai civic elections, and that a commemoration of a beloved national hero would appeal to working class voters. A Change.org petition to stop the construction of the statue sits at over 23,000 signatures at the time of this writing.

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    Tags:
    Construction, Environment, Statue, nationalism, Narendra Modi, India, Maharashtra, Mumbai
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