The construction of the proposed toll plaza at Kamothe-Kharghar junction on the Sion-Panvel highway has hit yet another hurdle. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has recently ordered the appointment of a district judge to visit the area of proposed toll plaza and inspect the construction work and state whether the process is causing any harm to the mangroves in the area.
The tribunal ordered that no work on the toll plaza shall be executed in the meantime. This order has come after the Ministry of Environment, Forest (MoEF) informed the tribunal that no permission is granted for CRZ clearance of the toll plaza, and no Environment Clearance (EC) has been given to the project.
The NGT bench, comprising Justice V R Kingaonkar and Dr Ajay Deshpande, was hearing an application by Dileep Nevatia, who sought action against contractor and concerned authorities for going ahead with the project without the EC.
The proposal for the toll plaza project comprised an 18.8 km road that passes through a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) area. The earlier proposal for the toll plaza was dropped because the project involved removal of mangroves and a Notice of Motion was filed before the Bombay high court against the project. The directions of the HC showed that proposed toll plaza would affect removal of mangroves and permission for the project had to be obtained from the competent authority and a buffer zone had to be provided, but these conditions are not yet complied with, the tribunal noted. “Obviously, at present, the proposed construction of Toll-plaza, is not permissible under the Law,” the NGT order stated. Moreover, the alignments of the 11.5km CRZ-I area and remaining area is unclear, the tribunal observed.
This toll plaza was proposed to recover the Rs 1,220-crore incurred for highway widening and concretization project by the PWD.
The proposed toll booth has been facing stiff opposition, not only from residents who would have to pay the toll for travelling in the area, but also from the Kharghar grampanchayat, who had passed a resolution opposing the toll plaza.The NCP-led PWD had undertaken the Sion-Panvel road improvement project on a build, operate, transfer basis with a concession period of 17 years and five months, including the three years of construction. The PWD claimed that MCZMA consent letter and High Court permission for construction in buffer zone(50 mts) from mangrove line was issued. “All work including toll plaza is done in PWD land width and no work is done by disturbing mangroves.Work of Taloja creek bridge, service road near Kamothe is not being done without relevant permission,”said H.S.Jagtap, sub divisional engineer, PWD.
However, following a shrill demand from all major political parties, especially leaders from the ruling Congress and NCP, the government has brought about a stay on this toll and constituted a chief secretary-led committee to study the issue.
The next hearing is scheduled on November 14.
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