The Bombay High Court on Friday held that the permission granted by Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) to construct a casting yard for the Versova-Bandra Sea Link Project at Juhu beach is “declared to be illegal”. The court also quashed the permission granted by the MCZMA on February 26 to construct the casting yard.
The court passed an order in the petition of an activist, Zoru Bhathena, challenging the construction of the casting yard under CRZ I (i) and CRZ III, which are ‘no-development’ zones and such construction is a clear violation of the CRZ notification, 2011. On February 26, the MCZMA gave its nod to construct a casting yard at Juhu Koliwada, followed by the permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forests (MoEF) and Climate Change.
Spread over five hectares on the beach, possession of 78,392.12 sqm was handed over by the District Collector to Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) for construction of the yard.
The activities permitted by the MCZMA at the casting yard were site office, labour restroom, reinforcement fabrication yard, Epoxy coating area, segment stacking yard, temporary jetty for feeding the material and segments and diesel dispensing tank. Senior Counsel Milind Sathe for the state told the court that allied activities for the sea link were permissible under CRZ II and clause (iv) of the Regulation 3 of the CRZ Regulation. Senior Counsel Gayatri Singh for the petitioner argued that according to CRZ-II, construction is to be permitted only on the landward side of existing roads or landward side of existing structures. The yard was on the seaward side of the sandy beach.
A bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice N M Jamdar said the site plan of the area shows that the land allotted for the temporary yard is on the seaward side of the sandy beach.
“If we draw a line perpendicular to the yard, we fail to see a road or a building towards the seaward side of the imaginary line. Meaning thereby, the regulation of building activity in CRZ II, which permits building activities only on the landward side of the existing road or landward side of the existing authorised structures, is blatantly violated,” the bench held.
On the argument of the state, the bench held that “it may be true that Regulation 8 permits building in CRZ II but the same is only on the landward side of the existing road or landward side of the existing structure”. It further held that the clause (iv) of Regulation 3 may permit land reclamation and bunding for constructing sea links and for facilities that are essential to the permissible activities, “but that would not mean that pertaining to a sea link, under the garb of ancillary activities land reclamation is permitted and that too on an area measuring 78,392.12 sqm”.
The bench also observed that the temporary yard, which will leave footprints after the machinery brought to the site is removed after the work, will be of a “permanent and lasting nature adversely impacting the coastal stretch”.