SC clears the hurdle for coastal road project; activists unhappy

Work begins soon: A view of the Coastal Road interchange near Amarsons Garden on Tuesday.

Work begins soon: A view of the Coastal Road interchange near Amarsons Garden on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

Apex court stays HC fiat putting stop to work in July, brings relief to corporation

The Supreme Court order on Tuesday allowing work to resume on the coastal road project has come as a relief for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as it was allegedly facing a loss of ₹5 crore per day since work had come to a halt in July.

Activists, however, are disappointed, and are also afraid that a lot of marine ecosystem shall have been wiped out by the next hearing in April.

The SC stayed a Bombay High Court order in July which had stopped work on the project. This apex court ruling effectively means there is no restriction on work. “We were facing a loss of ₹5 to ₹10 crore per day because of the HC’s stay order. Now that the stay has been lifted, we can restart work. Machinery will soon be mobilised; we don’t want to waste any more time,” Mohan Machiwal, chief engineer of Mumbai coastal road department, said. The department was incurring high establishment costs, apart from losses faced by the contractors, as it was formed specifically for the project.

When Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray visited the BMC for the first time, he had taken a review of several projects including coastal road. The BMC had set aside ₹1,600 crore in this year’s budget for the ₹15,000 crore (approximate) project. The corporation will now have to assess reclamation work and reinforce it wherever required.

Environmentalist Shweta Wagh, the petitioner on whose plea the HC had granted a stay, called the SC verdict disappointing. “My PIL had also challenged the 2015 CRZ amendment in the first place as it was bad in law. The HC had taken it into consideration while issuing a stay. Besides, we had insisted that the project require an environmental clearance and a public hearing.”

She also said they are now afraid that by the time of the next hearing, the entire marine biodiversity in the region shall have been wiped out. “There will be impact on artisanal fishing as well. A study by Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) is still ongoing; work should not have resumed until it has submitted a report.”

After the High Court had come down heavily on the BMC and the State government for not conducting a proper survey on how coastal road would affect the livelihood of fisherfolk, the BMC appointed CMFRI for the study. The institute will study the project’s impact on fishing, fishing expansion, and number of families and boats affected, and suggest mitigation measures.

Dr. Nilesh Baxi, a resident of Napean Sea Road, who has been leading protests against the project, said the order means reclamation work will now resume. “Residents of this area have been protesting the large-scale reclamation and the destruction of Tata Gardens for the Amarsons interchange that will destroy 200 trees.”

He also said they will wait for a final judgement and then decide if they need to challenge it. “Until then, reclamation will continue for the road. Since interchanges will be built later, we have time. The BMC on one hand is trying to keep gardens open round the clock while on the other, it wants to destroy Tata Gardens, which is open throughout the day. Our fight will continue as it is a matter of 200 trees.”

After the SC order, former CM Devendra Fadnavis tweeted, “We welcome Hon Supreme Court’s decision of revoking the stay on coastal road project! We worked hard for 5years to remove every obstacle that came in the way of any infrastructure project. Let us hope that State Govt doesn’t act as ‘Stay Authority’,when hurdles are being removed!”

Worli MLA and Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray tweeted, “The coastal road, a dream project of CMOMaharashtra Uddhav Thackeray ji, has been given the go ahead by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. It will benefit Mumbai at large and we are committed to time bound completion of the project by the @mybmc.”

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 4:09:26 AM |

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