Stream falls within CRZ where nothing can be built: National Green Tribunal

Two big cranes, tonnes of steel and vast expanse of mud are lying unattended after the expansion work of Old Fisheries Harbour at Bunder comes to a halt. The site of construction of wharf at Thota Bengre is not much different.

The construction work, initially estimated to cost Rs. 57.6 crore in 2011, was halted with the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal ordering maintenance of status quo on the petition filed by Mangalorean activist Octavia Albuquerque and others. The tribunal has found that the project is filling up a creek in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.

This is the second time in the past six months that the work is halted on a court order.

The project is meant to accommodate hundreds of more mechanised fishing boats jostling for space on the existing shorter jetty. The revised cost of the project is Rs. 98 crore. Port and Fisheries Engineering Sub-Division’s Assistant Executive Engineer A. Sujan Rao maintained that besides escalation, additional facilities included were responsible for upper revision of the cost.

Though the jetty is expanded for a length of about 400 m at Bunder — part of which is occupied by a few fishing boats — its construction is halted close to the nearby tile factory. The extension is being taken on either side — Old Harbour at Bunder and at Thota Bengre which is across the river.

Reason

The tribunal has pointed out at the “Google imagery (of Thota Bengre beach) taken in the year 2010 which shows topography of large area forming a creek”, which the respondents have not denied.

The order passed by a Bench, headed by Chairperson Swatanter Kumar, observed, “Now the petitioner … has filed photographs purporting to show that entire creek has been covered as a result of the project…” It added that a Mangalore Guide Map, too, showed the area as a creek. “The contention raised before us is that all the authorities concerned on a misrepresentation of the facts have proceeded on the basis that there is or there was no creek at the relevant point of time.”

It found the contention that it is not a creek but a pond is “ex-facie not correct… it squarely falls within the CRZ (Coastal Regulatory Zone) where nothing could have been built upon” and directed that status quo as on April 2 should be maintained.

The matter is posted to May 9.

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