The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has directed the BMC to set up an environment management cell for effective implementation and monitoring of the environment management and marine biodiversity conservation plans for the ambitious coastal road project.
The directive is part of the 16 conditions that MCZMA has asked the BMC to fulfil while forwarding its application of amendment in coastal zone regulation (CRZ) clearance to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) for final approval.
In October, the BMC had approached the MCZMA seeking amendment in CRZ clearance granted for coastal road project in March 2017. The civic body has now said it will require additional 21 hectares coastal reclamation. The BMC had clearance for reclamation of 90 hectares for the coastal road from Princess Street Flyover, Marine Drive, to Worli end of Sea Link. Now the reclamation will go up to 111 hectares.
According to the MCZMA conditions, the BMC shall set up a full-fledged environment management cell for tracking effective implementation and monitoring of environment management, marine biodiversity conservation plans, recommendation of socio-economic study and disaster management plan prepared for the coastal road project.
The environment cell should monitor real-time change in shoreline, erosion/accretion of coastline by engaging competent agencies like National Institute of Oceanography, IIT-Bombay, CWPRS, stated the MCZMA. The authority has also said real-time data should be collected for 15 years down the line and specific budget allocation made for setting up the cell.
The MCZMA has also suggested to appoint a third party auditor to keep a check on implementations during and after the construction of the road from time to time. Earlier, the BMC in its application of amendment in CRZ clearance had listed 24 changes from the original plan, including increase in length, additional reclamation and cost of the project. The BMC is spending Rs 12,721 crore on construction of the coastal road.
The BMC has also been asked to explore the use of artificial coral reefs to promote marine biodiversity and growth of marine life and intertidal habitats on the reclaimed surface.
Acting on a complaint from senior advocate B A Desai to protect a lagoon-like water body near Priyadarshini Park from reclamation, the MCZMA has directed the BMC to minimise the reclamation and not to fill the water body completely and construct walkway so as to allow seawater to enter the water body. Petitioners against the coastal road are disappointed with the MCZMA as it did not take into consideration their suggestions.
“On the one hand, the MCZMA has quite rightly pointed out that they have no powers to grant post facto clearance in the case of the jetty at Guhagar. Yet, in the case of the coastal road, they have recommended that post facto clearance be granted for the coastal road project. Second, the MCZMA has not dealt with any of the written representations and submissions by petitioners. They have only dealt with oral submissions, “said Debi Goenka, environmentalist and petitioner against the coastal road project.
Another petitioner Shweta Wagh said, “They have given lots of space for the BMC’s justifications and arguments and abridged and summarised detailed arguments and submissions made by petitioners. In the end, they dodged their duty as the coastal zone management authority and passed the buck to the MoEFCC.”
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