Bombay High Court Blocks Coastal Road Project for now; Asks for New Environmental Clearances
The Bombay High Court today has upheld the claim in a set of petitions that the ambitious, eight-lane, 29.2km long coastal road project, connecting Churchgate in the south and Kandivili in the north, needs proper environmental clearances.
The bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice NM Jamdar stayed the Rs14,000-crore project and quashed the CRZ (coastal regulation zone) clearances granted to it.
Although the municipal corporation had claimed that it had a final clearance from ministry of environment, forest and climate change on 11 November 2017, senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas, appearing for the petitioners, said this was a faulty and illegal green clearance.
There was already a stay on construction of the project during the hearing, but today’s order will put an end to the project until the government obtains fresh clearances.
This is a big victory for the petitioners, who include two leading fishermen associations (Worli Koliwada Nakwa and Worli Machimar Sarvodaya) Conservation Action Trust, Society for Improvement, Greenery, and Nature, Vanashakti and activists like Prakash Laxman Chandekar, Debi Goenka who took the initiative.
The coastal road is planned to be a 29.2km stretch, connecting Churchgate in the south and Kandivili in the north. The project had to take permissions from various bodies and it received it’s final clearance from ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) on 11 November 2017.
The petitioners requested for stopping the execution of this project due to the increasing threat to environment and the adverse effect it will have on the coral and marine life of the region especially the geomorphological features of coastline and the degradation of sensitive coastal vegetation. The interests of the fishermen and people at large were ignored, they argued.
The government argued that this action the coastal road would reduce pollution, by saving as much as three hours of travel which, today causes eye irritation, bronchitis, cough and other ailments.
In spite of the fact that the project had received permissions and fulfilled the required standards informed by various bodies, the court found it essential for the project to require the environmental clearance under environmental impact assessment (EIA) notification.
In April this year, the High Court had restrained the BMC from carrying out any further work on the project. This prompted BMC to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.
In May, the Supreme Court allowed the corporation to carry out existing work but prohibited it from carrying out any new work. It had also directed the Bombay High Court to take up the matter for final hearing.
And today, on 16th July, in the Bombay High Court, the bench said:
“We hold that there is a lack of proper scientific study and this has been overlooked by MCZMA(Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority), EIA (Environmental Assessment Report) and MoEF warranting the approval granted by MCZMA on 4th January 2017, the approval granted by EAC on 17th March 2017 and the final approval granted by MoEF on 11th May, 2017 are liable to be quashed and set aside. We quash the decision taken by MCZMA on 4th January 2017 and the approval granted by MoEF on 11th May 2017 on said ground alone.”
It declared that MCGM cannot proceed with the work without obtaining the Environment clearance and further permission under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The Court also observed that “it is settled law that an administrative or a statutory decision has to be taken by the Executive after properly applying its mind to all relevant material which ought to be in the mind of the authority while taking the decision. Both MCZMA and MoEF have not taken into account, in spite of being informed, that the Metro Rail Project in Mumbai was under construction and the Metro Network to be constructed would run parallel to the proposed coastal road. It was covering the entire South-North of the city. The impact of the Metro of being able to transport commuters was extremely necessary and important keeping in mind that the reclamation of land to construct a coastal road is permitted only in an exceptional case, and as opined by us, to determine whether a case was an exceptional case warranted the same to be considered from the point of view of a crying need of the city bordering the dying need of the city.”