HC Quashes CRZ Clearance to ₹14,000 Cr Mumbai Coastal Road Project

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday, 16 July, quashed the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances granted to the city civic body's Rs 14,000-crore coastal road project, stating lack of proper scientific study and “serious lacuna” in the decision-making process.

PROJECT AND COURT’S DECISION

The 29.2 km-long project proposed to connect south Mumbai with north western suburbs of the metropolis and was one of the flagship infrastructure schemes of the BJP-led Maharashtra government.

The court noted that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had to take environmental clearance under Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification issued by the Centre, PTI reported.

“We declare that the civic body cannot proceed with the works without obtaining an environmental clearance under EIA notification. Further, permission under the Wildlife (Protection) Act-1972 should also be obtained,” the high court said.

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The division bench which comprised Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice NM Jamdar quashed the CRZ clearances while allowing a bunch of petitions filed by activists, residents and fishermen from the city challenging the project.

“It is obvious that a serious lacuna has occurred in the decision-making process. We hold that there is lack of proper scientific study and this has been overlooked by Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), the EIA and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF),” the court said.

The bench refused to accept the BMC's argument that there was a dying need for the coastal road project so as to decongest the city's roads, PTI reported.

It also said that the need has to be more than a “crying need” and that it has not to be a need of convenience.

WHAT WE KNOW

The project had been granted approval earlier by the MCZMA on 4 January 2017, the EAC on 17 March 2017 and the final approval granted by the MoEF on 11 May 2017.

BMC's counsel Darius Khambata sought a stay of the order to appeal in the Supreme Court.

The request was, however, refused by the high court.

The bench, however, upheld the 30 December 2015 amendment to the CRZ Rules which permitted reclamation of land in coastal regulated areas for constructing roads.

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However, the court held that permission to reclaim land for constructing a road in coastal regulated areas must be sparingly used and in essence must be exercised rarely.

In April, the high court prohibited the BMC from carrying out any further work on the project following which the corporation appealed in the Supreme Court.

In May, the apex court permitted the corporation to carry out the existing work, but prohibited it from doing any new work.

The apex court then directed the high court to take up the petitions for final hearing.

PETITIONERS’ ARGUMENT

The petitioners have challenged the reclamation and construction work for the project on the ground that it will result in damage to the coastline and destroy major marine life along the coast and livelihood of the fishermen, PTI reported.

According to them the coastal road project will irreversibly damage the coastal ecosystem, depriving the fishing community in the city of its source of livelihood.

The BMC earlier told the high court that it had all the necessary approvals for the project.

(With inputs from PTI)

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