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HC Asks for Environmental Clearance, Mumbai Coastal Road Proposal Hangs in Balance

Amey Tirodkar |
While rejecting the CRZ permission for the proposed Rs 12,000 crore coastal road project in Mumbai, the HC stated that such projects, which are to be built on reclaimed land, require mandatory environmental clearance.
HC Asks for Environmental Clearance

Image for representational use only.Image Courtesy : Scroll

The proposed Mumbai Coastal Road project has been mired in controversy as it is proposed to be built in the coastal line of Mumbai. In the latest development, the Bombay High Court, on July 16, rejected the permission given by the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) and underlined the concerns of environmentalists about the project. The coastal road with an estimated cost of Rs 12,000 crore is a big ticket infrastructure project for the Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. However, the HC decision comes as a setback to the Shiv Sena ahead of crucial Assembly elections in the state.

In the Worli Koliwada Nakhva Matsya Vyavsay Sahakari Society and Worli Machchimar Sahakari Sarvodaya Society VS Different Authorities of Maharashtra government case, the Bombay HC has clearly stated the need of Environmental Clearance for the project to proceed. Several other organisation including the Vanshakti Public Trust too were participants in the ongoing case.

Declaring that environmental clearance is mandatory for such projects, the HC stated that the sole permission of CRZ is not acceptable. It has also ordered a stay on the authorities from proceeding with any further work about the project until the EC is cleared. Environmentalists, social activists as well as local fishermen have welcomed the decision. The 219 pages-long detailed order deals with various issues raised by the fishermen community, civilian society, citizens as individuals and environmentalists.

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The most serious concern being raised by environmentalists is regarding the reclamation of 415 acres of land. The city of Mumbai itself is situated on huge stretches of reclaimed land. Further reclamation in the sea will affect the city’s ecology and have a devastating impact on the marine life of Mumbai.

There are several objections by locals from the old village of Worli area as well. The fishermen community, which has been residing in the area for several centuries, are set be displace by the proposed project. But neither the government or the BMC has provided any plans for their rehabilitation. The representatives of the community had even approached the Supreme Court but to no avail.

History of the Coastal Road Project

The history of the idea of coastal road goes back to the 1960s when Backbay reclamation was being done. At that time, a similar road was suggested by the consulting company. The suggested project covered the distance from Haji Ali to Colaba. The erstwhile government of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party tried to pursue the issue with environmental authorities. Even the state's Coastal Zone Management Authority had written to the environment ministry to amend the law of CRZ and include the road into it, but it was rejected.

As the Bharatiya Janata Party- Shiv Sena government rose to power, it launched various projects in Mumbai for infrastructural overhaul. This coastal road project was one of them. However, the control over the project is not free from political influences. The BJP, which has the chief minister’s post, has considerable control over Mumbai’s special development authority, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). Initially, the BJP was trying to get the project cleared by the MMRDA, but to maintain its political equation with the Shiv Sena, it allowed the Sena-led BMC to take up the project.

The coastal road project is intended to reduce traffic congestion of the western express highway connecting Bandra to Dahisar. The proposed road will extend from Nariman Point of South Mumbai to Kandivali in Western Mumbai, covering a distance of 29.2 km and will have 8 lanes. The project is aimed to be implemented in two phases. The first phase will be from Nariman Point to Worli End of Bandra Worli Sea Link. The second phase will be from Bandra to Kandivali. The project is aimed to be completed by 2022.

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