March 17, 2021 4:48:46 am
The Coastal road project in Mumbai has got the nod from the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for a proposed amendment in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance, seeking additional reclamation in the sea. The EAC has recommended the proposal to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) for final approval with some conditions.
According to the minutes of the 257th meeting of EAC, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is executing the project has been asked to monitor the growth of marine life and intertidal habitats and explore options of artificial reefs to promote marine biodiversity with consultation with the Mangrove Foundation. It has also been asked to take steps for conservation of corals as per the biodiversity management plan. The committee has also directed the BMC to conduct annual monitoring of the shoreline of the entire project site and sea levels at least on four locations along the coastal road with the help of automated gauge. The meeting was held on March 5 via videoconferencing but minutes of the meetings came out on Tuesday.
The EAC is a panel with experts from different fields, which functions under the MoEFCC and decides on projects that are under CRZ areas.
Last year, the BMC filed affidavits before the Supreme Court that it will require an additional 21 hectares reclamation in sea as against the original 90 hectares while hearing petitions filed by citizens and environmentalists seeking a stay on the project. Now, the project will need a total 111 hectares, of which 6.51 hectares are for additional reclamation and 14.49 for construction of sea wall.
The BMC stated that they have CRZ clearance for reclamation of 90 hectares for the project and additional reclamation will be done only after permission from the central ministry. The BMC is constructing 10.58-km coastal road from Princess Street Flyover, Marine Drive, to Worli end of Bandra-Worli Sea Link road. It will cost Rs 12,721 crore. The EAC has also asked the BMC to intimate Supreme Court and Bombay High Court on revised CRZ clearance.
So far, the BMC has completed over 24 per cent work on the project and it is expected to be completed by July 2023. In December 2020, Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) forwarded the BMC’s application of amendment in CRZ clearance for additional reclamation.
However, environmentalists are unhappy with the recommendation as their representations regarding the project were not considered.
“The EAC did not discuss a single suggestion or submissions given by petitioners. I requested a site visit for MCZMA members to verify illegal reclamation done by the BMC without even having requisite permission, but that was also not considered. The manner in which MCZMA meeting was conducted was not right and was also not discussed in EAC,” said Debi Goenka, an environmentalist, and one of the petitioners.
He added, “Another issue was EAC chairman Dr Deepak Apte excused himself from the meeting citing conflict of interest. But he was there in the 2017 meeting when first CRZ clearance was granted for the coastal road project. There is no clarity as to what was the conflict of interest.”
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