Pune-based Western Zone bench of the National Green Tribunal has directed the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to pay a compensation of Rs 95.19 crore to the 1,630 fishermen families in Uran and Panvel talukas of Raigad district who were displaced due to expansion activities carried out by the firms. The amount will be equally distributed (Rs 5,84,000 per family) among the families after the firms pay up.
The NGT bench comprising Justices V R Kingaonkar and Ajay Deshpande has directed CIDCO, JNPT and ONGC to pay the compensation amount in a ratio of 10:70:20.
Petitioner Ramdas Koli, a resident of Hanuman Koliwada village in Uran taluka, had sought various reliefs, particularly, rehabilitation of the families of fishermen, who were affected on account of construction and expansion activities carried out by JNPT, ONGC and CIDCO.
As per the petition, due to widening and deepening of the sea for fourth additional berth at the port of JNPT and inter-tidal sea water exchanges, flow of the sea water in Nhava creek will be substantially affected. Destruction of mangroves alongside beaches and other project-related activities caused loss to spawning and breeding grounds of fish, affecting their livelihood.
The petitioner had claimed that the JNPT had also narrowed down the mouth of the creek, which previously was of larger width allowing free egress and ingress of traditional boats in the seawater with free tidal currents. With the result, their traditional boats are unable to navigate freely as usual within the area of seawater around proposed project of Berth No. 4. Traditional boats find difficulty and hindrance to return route due to presence of wet grass rocks, when the tide recede in the area and the water level goes down.
The bench relied on an affidavit filed by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), which reportedly showed that there, indeed, was mangroves degradation on Gavhan-Nhava road. It also made it clear that a clarification needed to be sought from JNPT on these issues. The photographs appended to the report also showed destruction of mangroves, untreated effluent flowing into creek, obstruction caused to tidal exchange in the creek, bund without maintenance at Belpada and near parking terminal.
The NGT bench has directed the three firms to pay Rs 95.19 crore within three months of the order, failing which the fishermen families will be entitled to get 12 per cent compounding interest on the said amount. They are additionally required to deposit Rs 50 lakh with the Raigad district collector as restoration cost for the environmental damage.
Human rights lawyer and legal activist Asim Sarode welcomed the decision, calling it a landmark judgment as it established a “new age environmental jurisprudence”.
“Through this judgment, the NGT has created a landmark in laying down the process of assessing the losses and granting compensation to those affected by environmental loss. This judgment will be an an effective step to usher in change in the lives of traditional fishermen community,” said Sarode.
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