THE BOMBAY High Court Thursday told the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) not to carry out any new reclamation for the coastal road project until further orders. The court will further hear a bunch of petitions seeking a stay on the project on April 23.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Shweta Wagh, an architect, and eight other petitioners, who have alleged that the ongoing reclamation is not only illegal but will also irreversibly alter the coastal morphology, biodiversity and traditional ecological practices. The plea stated that the coastal road and the ongoing reclamation work are a breach of the laws on environment clearances, traditional rights and jurisdiction.
The petitioners are seeking directions to quash and set aside the decision of the BMC to implement the project and the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance granted to it on May 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
Senior counsel Gayatri Singh, arguing for the petitioners, informed the court that a project of such magnitude needs necessary environmental clearance, which has not been obtained by the BMC. “The project proponent must first get environment clearance for such project,” Singh told the court. She added that the dumping of debris for reclamation is being carried out rapidly and sought a stay on it.
BMC counsel Anil Sakhare, meanwhile, told the court that the project has received CRZ approval and does not need environmental clearance. He added that 70 per cent of Mumbai stands on land reclaimed from the sea and that work on coastal road project had started four months ago.
Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice N M Jamdar told BMC, “If dumping is already done, then the damage is done… please take care no further damage is caused.”
“Maintain the status quo and do not move forward until further orders,” the bench told the BMC. The court also accepted the statement of the BMC that no new reclamation will be carried out for the coastal road project.
The bench also heard a related petition filed by NGO Society for Improvement, Greenery and Nature, seeking preservation and conservation of Tata Garden on Warden Road, Breach Candy. The petition, filed through lawyer Ankit Kulkarni, stated that the garden houses more than 300 trees, majority of which are more than 30 years old. It claimed that the garden will be completely destroyed by the project, as the coastal road will pass through its middle to connect with Bhulabhai Desai Road and make way for an interchange road.
Senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas told the court that adjacent to Tata Garden is an open area, known as scandal point, which has no trees and permanent structures and is used as a parking lot. The interchange road can readily be accommodated there without destruction of the environment, he added.
Chief Justice Nandrajog said that it was a logical suggestion by the petitioner. He also asked why the BMC is not considering the alternative land if it is available.