The Maharashtra government informed the Bombay High Court on Thursday it has received all environmental clearances for the Rs. 3,600-crore Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj statue in the middle of the sea and that it intends to charge visitors.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice G.S. Kulkarni was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by nine environmentalists challenging the proposed construction of the statue on the grounds of environmental and coastal regulation zone clearances.
Provision in budget
The other PIL was filed by Prof. Mohan Bhide, a chartered accountant who pointed out that the State proposes to complete the project in three to four years by providing for Rs. 1,000 crore in each of the forthcoming budgets but there is no provision made in the 2016-17 Budget.
Senior counsel V.A. Thorat, appearing for the State government, said the safety and environmental aspect of the statue have been examined and that a disaster management and evacuation plan is also in place.
“All environmental clearances have been given for the project. In fact, on June 15, the Coastal Regulation Zone authority has given the government permission to increase the height of the statue from 192 metres to 210 metres.”
He said the government is in the process of deciding on whether to charge visitors and that a decision will be taken soon. Senior counsel Mihir Desai, appearing for environmentalists, said the fishing community will further be deprived of their source of livelihood, as the project proposes to cut off access to certain areas.
Meanwhile, the court took the Central government to task for not filing their say in the matter. “Why does this not happen with other government departments? The court’s time cannot be wasted like this. There has been lethargy by the Centre since the past three to four years; the whole system has collapsed. Let there be a proper investigation into this. Letters written by other advocates are just thrown in the waste paper basket,” the judges said.
The court is likely to pass an order in the matter on November 2.