The Bombay High Court has quashed the Environment Ministry’s Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance for the southern stretch of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) Coastal Road project.
What is this project?
The BMC has proposed a 29.2 km coastal road from Princess Street in South Mumbai to Kandivali in the western suburbs along the western coast of the city. Construction of the first 9.96 km stretch of the road from Princess Street, Marine Drive, to the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sealink has begun. The project cost has been pegged at Rs 12,000 crore.
Why is this coastal road needed?
According to the BMC, the main purpose is to ease the congestion on the city’s choked arterial roads. Mumbai sees massive traffic volumes especially during the morning and evening rush hours in both the north-south and south-north directions.
The BMC expects the coastal road will take away a significant chunk of this traffic load and ensure that commuters save both time and fuel.
What has happened in the project so far?
Work on the project began in December 2018. The BMC intends to reclaim about 91 hectares of land for the project.
Following BMC’s application, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) had given approval for the road on January 18, 2017. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change gave its consent on May 11, 2017.
Who is opposed to the project, and why?
Environmentalists, activists, and fisherfolk are opposing the project, alleging that it will severely affect marine biodiversity along Mumbai’s western coast, and that land reclamation will cause irreversible damage to the sea.
The project’s critics also say it will destroy fishing areas, leading to loss of livelihood for fishermen. The project site, which falls under the Coastal Regulations Zone 1 category, does not have the required environment clearance. Activists have also said that the BMC’s claims that traffic congestion would be reduced is erroneous, and that the civic body has failed to establish a substantial impact on traffic on the existing roads.
Who moved the Bombay High Court challenging the clearances given to the project?
Activists and environmentalist filed a bunch of petitions in February and March, saying the project was being executed illegally. In April, the High Court had asked the BMC not to take up any fresh work like reclamation on the project, and to only continue with the ongoing work.
On Tuesday, the High Court upheld contentions that environmental and wildlife clearances were required for the project, and ruled that the CRZ clearance had been granted illegally.
So what happens now?
The High Court has stayed the project. The BMC, which is committed to the coastal road, will now move the Supreme Court against the High Court’s order.