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Breaking: Environmental Clearance required for BMC Coastal Road Project: Bombay High Court

Breaking: Environmental Clearance required for BMC Coastal Road Project: Bombay High Court

Bar & Bench

The Bombay High Court today allowed a batch of petitions challenging the construction of the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) Coastal Road Project worth Rs. 14,000 crore.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice NM Jamdar set aside the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance, stating that environmental clearance is required

Senior Advocate Darius Khambata appearing for BMC immediately requested for a stay on this order. However, the Court denied it.

On July 1, the Bombay High Court had reserved judgment in a batch of PILs challenging the BMC’s Coastal Road Project, which is to connect South Mumbai’s Marine Drive area to Kandivali in North Mumbai. The project was challenged by environmental activists, residents and the fishing community from Worli Koliwada.

The PILs had sought quashing of the decision of the BMC to implement the project and the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance granted for it on May 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

The petitioners had objected to construction and reclamation work on the proposed 10 km-long southern part of the Coastal Road from Marine Lines to the southern entry point of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. The petitioners contended that the project was not given environmental clearance and that it will damage the coastal ecosystem, including the rare species of corals under the sea.

Appearing for the petitioners, Senior Advocate Janak Dwarakadas had challenged the reclamation work in South Mumbai on the ground that it would result in damage to the coastline, destroy marine life, and affect the livelihoods of the fishing community.

He argued that the project lacks several clearances and permissions including those from the MoEFFCC, the Maharashtra State Coastal Zone Management Authority, and the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee.

He emphasized that the public hearings required to be held before environmental clearances are granted were not conducted. He also pointed out that the recommendations by the Environmental Assessment Committee were cleared within a day without any application of mind.

Further, it was submitted that the BMC had initially applied for approvals for the entire 35-km-long project. However, when they were refused approvals, they split the project into two, and sought permission for the South and North Coastal Road, stating that they were two separate projects.

The state and the BMC argued that no environmental clearance was required for the South Coastal Road, as it is a linear road and not an area development project. The BMC also asserted that the project has got CRZ permissions.

Appearing for the BMC, Senior Counsel Darius Khambata argued that the Coastal Road project is aimed at resolving the issue of traffic congestion in Mumbai and that millions of citizens were in support of it.

On June 29, the Central Government had also made a similar argument. Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh told the Court,

It takes around three hours to travel from Churchgate to Borivali by road during peak hours and very few people use public transport. Once the coastal road is constructed, the entire load will reduce.”

In April this year, the High Court had restrained the BMC from carrying out any further work on the project. This prompted BMC to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.

In May, the Supreme Court allowed the corporation to carry out existing work but prohibited it from carrying out any new work. It had also directed the Bombay High Court to take up the matter for final hearing.

Read the judgment: