CAUTIONING environmentalists against taking an adversarial stand against all development work, the Bombay High Court Tuesday granted go-ahead to five projects across the state that could lead to destruction of mangroves. The court pointed out that ecological conservation was important but it must not become an impediment for development projects.
The High Court emphasised the larger public good that would be achieved by implementation of such projects, including the widening of Mahim creek and widening of a national highway to decongest the area around the proposed airport at Navi Mumbai.
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Instead of stalling public development projects, the court said, private developers getting away with destroying the green cover should be targeted.
The observations were made by a bench hearing four applications filed by various government agencies in response to orders passed by the HC in 2005 in relation to a public interest litigation filed by the Bombay Environmental Action Group. The court had imposed restrictions on development works undertaken in and around mangroves areas.
“We are most concerned about the green cover in Mumbai and rest of the state and also about mangroves. While their unwarranted destruction cannot be tolerated, we must keep in mind that development and ecological concerns must amicably co-exist. In other South Asian cities like Hong Kong and Singapore, no stringent conditions are imposed when it comes to crucial developmental projects,” said the bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice Nutan Sardesai.
The bench also cautioned environmentalists against taking an “adversarial stand against every
development project”, adding that they must not oppose every project for the sake of opposition, without taking into consideration the heavy burden such action puts on the public exchequer as a
result of the delay in completion of such infrastructure project. “The fact that such projects are carried out by government undertakings does not necessarily mean they have vested interests,” it said.
The bench granted go-ahead to the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited’s proposal to lay an underground pipeline along a 45-km stretch between Mankhurd and Bhiwandi. The other projects included the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s proposal to construct a six-lane bridge over the Ulhas creek to connect Kalyan with Dombivli, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust’s proposal to widen two national highway stretches — JNPT to Panvel and to Belapur. One of the two NH stretches is a four-lane road at present and JNPT has proposed to make it a eight-lane stretch, which will decongest the area around the proposed airport in Navi Mumbai. The last project which has been given the go-ahead is BMC’s proposal to widen the Mahim causeway and the area around two of the four arterial pipelines that supply water to Mumbai.
All the authorities informed the HC that they had all the requisite permissions from the state and
central agencies and would carry out plantation in cases where mangroves will be destroyed.