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Indian PM Narendra Modi.Reuters file

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday laid the foundation stone for the grand memorial of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Mumbai, a project worth a whopping Rs 3,600 crore.

The memorial -- Shiv Smarak -- will be constructed in the Arabian Sea off the Mumbai coast. The statue is expected to be the world's tallest. It will be 210 metres tall — the height of a 12-storey building, constructed entirely in the sea on an oval-shaped rocky outcrop of 15.96 hectare.

Shiv Smarak will surpass the height of the Statue of Liberty in New York and the under construction Statue of Unity of Saradar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat.

For the foundation stone-laying ceremony, PM Modi reached Girgaum Chowpatty at around 1.30 pm with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.

PM Modi then reached the location for the 'bhumi puja' on board a hovercraft, and dropped holy water and mud into the sea at around 3 pm.

PM Modi had, earlier in the day, tweeted saying: "I am honoured to be getting the opportunity to perform the Bhoomipujan of #ShivSmarak. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is a torchbearer of courage, bravery & good governance. #ShivSmarak is a fitting tribute to him & his greatness."

Boats will ferry visitors to the statue from Nariman Point (3.5km away) and Gateway of India (12km away). The memorial will consist of an art museum, amphitheatre, marine aquarium, galleries, a helipad, guest rooms and facilities like a cafeteria, medical facilities, stalls, waste-water treatment. An IMAX theatre to screen short films on the Maratha warrior will also be built.

Environmental concerns surrounding Shivaji Memorial

The memorial has been surrounded by controversy, mainly due to the huge cost involved, as the budget for the statue has increased 35 times since it was first conceived 12 years ago.

Environmentalists have raised concerns that the movement of boats from Nariman Point to the site of the memorial will cause marine pollution and also damage the coast. The fishing community is also not in favour of the project as their livelihood will be affected. The project will also cause damage to the habitat of the fishes.

Political backlash

The Opposition parties have criticised the Modi government saying that the event was a gimmick to win the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections that are scheduled to take place in 2017.

BJP's ally Shiv Sena and some Maratha community leaders are reportedly upset over the party's dominance over the preparation of events. According to the Hindustan Times, several areas in Mumbai have been decorated with BJP flags with leaders welcoming people carrying pails of water, soil and stones from across Maharashtra for the bhoomi pujan.

Later Commitments

PM Modi will also lay the foundation stone for two Metro rail projects — Elevated Rail Corridors Project (ERCP) and Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL). He will, then, address a public function at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) Ground in Bandra where Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is also expected to be present.

PM Modi will then head to Pune to lay the foundation stone for the Pune Metro Rail project at the Agriculture College Ground where NCP leader Sharad Pawar is also likely to come.