The Bombay High Court on Monday began the final hearing in a bunch of petitions challenging the BMC’s Rs 14,000-crore Coastal Road project.
Environmental groups, NGOs and activists including the Conservation Action Trust, Society for Improvement and Nature, architect Shweta Wagh and NGO Vanshakti and the Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Matsyavyavsay Sahakari Society had moved the High Court against the project.
While the construction on the first leg of the project from Princess Street to Worli has already begun, the petitioners have opposed the project contending that the permissions it has proceeded on are not enough. Arguing for the petitioners, senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas told the court that the permission to construct in a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) by reclaiming land that was obtained by the BMC in May 2017 was bad in law. He further argued that while the construction of the southern part of the Coastal Road project from Princess Street to the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link had proceeded based on this clearance, that alone was not enough to go ahead with the project.
Dwarkadas told the court, “They also required permission under the Wildlife Protection Act because there is coral presence under the sea along the alignment of the project. They come under Schedule I of the Act. Prior permission of the wildlife warden is required.” He added that the BMC also should have got a clearance from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee as heritage structures like Mahalaxmi Fort and the Worli Fort that come all along the alignment are not covered by the no-objection certificate that the BMC had proceeded on the basis of.
Supporting Dwarkadas’s argument, senior counsel Gayatri Singh made written submissions to the court stating that the BMC had consistently projected the Coastal Road as one project. But curiously, when it came to undergoing environmental scrutiny, the BMC sought to treat the project as two standalone projects — northern from Bandra to Kandivali Junction and southern from Princess Street flyover (Marine Drive) to Worli. “It is apparent that this is a charade, being undertaken to avoid a meaningful and accountable public engagement in the shape and form of a public consultation as mandated at the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessement) of 2006 for a prior environment clearance.”
Meanwhile, an intervention application in support of the coastal road project was filed by lawyer Rohini Amin, who travels to South Mumbai from Borivali daily stated that on some days it takes up to three hours to travel the distance and the coastal road project was essential for the city because its public transport system had reached a saturation point.
Chief Justice Pradeep Nadrajog and Justice N M Jamdar will continue hearing the case on Tuesday.