SC allows land reclamation for coastal road project

The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed authorities the freedom to reclaim the land and secure it for building a road in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) ambitious coastal road project.

A Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde, however, forbade the authorities from carrying out any other developmental work in connection with the project till further notice.

The order came on an appeal filed by the BMC against a Bombay High Court decision in July to stop work on the project till it gets a proper environmental impact assessment (EIA) clearance.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice Bobde’s predecessor, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, had first heard the appeal. The apex court had at that time not stayed the High Court order.

Appearing for some fishermen cooperatives and NGOs, advocates Colin Gonsalves and C.U. Singh urged the court to let the HC stay continue. They asked the court to hear the matter fully before passing any orders. They said the court could give a short date and hear the case immediately when it reopens on January 2 after the winter vacation.

Mr. Singh said the HC stay had resulted in withdrawal of the massive equipment used for the project. Now, they would be back. The damage caused to the coral reefs and aquatic life would be irreversible. Free flow of tidal water may be completely blocked, he said.

“The case is very important for the rest of the country. It would affect the 7,000-km stretch of the country’s coastline. This would be used as a precedent for builders to reclaim coastal stretches,” Mr. Gonsalves said. “The project is not just about a road. It touches on 90 hectares. The road is only a tiny stretch but large areas of land would be reclaimed... Work had stopped in July, don’t let it continue.”

He said the court must recall how it had intervened in BSP leader Mayawati’s Noida Park project. “It was just a park, but it changed the ecology and green cover in the area.”

Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the appellant authorities, said the project had already got the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance and now there was no need for an EIA clearance.

“According to us, we don’t require an EIA clearance for building roads. This is not a project for a massive highway. Just a road. Bombay is full of roads. Bombay is choked. We are losing ₹5 crore every day,” Mr. Rohatgi countered.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the project was 19-km long and it was stopped after over a km of work done.

Mr. Gonsalves said the CRZ clearance was procured citing an “exceptional circumstance” of “excessive” traffic in the north-south stretch. “But Metro was started nearly a decade ago to handle this issue.”

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 1:14:36 AM |

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