On 25thFebruary, 2020, Hon’ble Supreme Court with the bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Justice Bobde heard plea, which seeks to pursue the Supreme Court to grant stay order on the ongoing reclamation work of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) ambitious Coastal Road Project.
The applications, filed by activists Shweta Wagh and the Conservation Action Trust (CAT) and its executive trustee Debi Goenka, claim that the reclamation work has been going on at a “rapid” and “frenetic” pace, and so, should be stayed until the appeal is heard by the Supreme Court.
Background of the case:
The Bombay high court, through the bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nadrajot And Justice N.M. Jamdar, in July 2019, in Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Matsya Vyavasay Sahkari Society Ltd. V. Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Matsya Vyavasay Sahkari Society Ltd.,, asked the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to stop work till fresh environment clearances and notifications are obtained after a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Bench also held that there was a lack of “proper scientific study” and this was overlooked by the MCZMA (Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority), EIA and MoEF. However, Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay decided to file appeal in the Supreme Court. The bench headed by Chief Justice Bobde heard the petition and the court decided to stayed the order of Bombay High Court and quashed the Coastal Road Zone clearances granted to Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai ₹14,000 crore coastal road project.
In order dated 17th December 2019, the Supreme Court had, stayed the Bombay High Court judgment, “having regard to the factor of balance of convenience; prima facie case and irreparable damage/injury”. This was on appeals filed by the BMC, also known as the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Larsen and Toubro and the joint venture between the Hindustan Construction Company and the Hyundai Development Corporation.
What is coastal road project?
The Bandra-Worli sea link was originally planned as one arm of a longer sea link that would connect Bandra, queen of the suburbs, with Nariman Point, the commercial hub of south Mumbai. In October 2016, the BMC submitted a revised proposal to the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority MCZMA, limiting it to the first phase of the project. This is a 9.9-km coastal road from Marine Drive to the Worli or south end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Only 90 hectares would be reclaimed in this phase. Of this, 20 hectares would be used for the road while the remaining reclaimed land would house parks, cycle lanes, jogging tracks, promenades, and open green spaces, a luxury in Mumbai. The MoEF&CC granted its final CRZ approval in May 2017.
According to the BMC designs, the coastal road will be a combination of roads on stilts, roads built on reclamation, a small sea link our bridge portion, and a proposed under-sea tunnel, as well as the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. From the Princess Street flyover on Marine Drive to the Priyadarshini Park garden, there is a provision for an underground tunnel. From there, a land-fill road in the inter-tidal zone runs from Priyadarshini Park to Mahalaxmi temple. The rest of the highway is to be considered in Phase 2, for which clearances are still to be sought. This will include a coastal road from the Bandra end of the Sea Link till Khar Danda village, where a small bridge on the sea-ward side of Chimbai village will provide navigation space for fishing boats. The land filled road is proposed to be designed so that it does not obstruct a dense mangrove patch here. From Carter Road to Bharat Nagar, the alignment is a tunnel that starts near Ritumbara College. From the Bharat Nagar end of the tunnel to Kandivali junction, a double-deck elevated corridor and a road on stilts over a dense mangrove area will go further north via Andheri West to Kandivali. A spur is to be built for future connectivity all the way to Madh Island. Of the 35-km freeway, roughly 18 km will be constructed on reclaimed land. The two tunnels will be about 9 km in length.
Arguments of the applicants:
On 25th February, the Senior Counsel Shyam Divan appeared on behalf of the applicant and asserted that the ongoing reclamation work being done by authorities surpassing the order of Supreme Court dated 17th December 2019. Senior Counsel Shyam Divan argued that rapid reclamation was causing irreversible damage to the environment. It was further submitted that the CRZ clearance for the project states that no fishing activity should be hampered, the reclamation work has badly affected fishing in the Worli area. It was further contended by the applicant that the area, “which has historically been a traditional fishing ground for the community will be irreversibly destroyed”, and the reclamation work will be completed by the time the matter is finally heard by the court in April 2020.
Arguments of the respondent:
Senior Counsel Mukul Rohtagi and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta agued on behalf of the Respondent, who argued that there is no contravention of the order of the Supreme Court by respondent. They further argued that, “Do they expect us to carry out development in the road works by standing at sea?”
Decision of the court:
The bench, comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Surya Kant had, segregated the municipal corporation’s work into construction of the road on one hand, and the ancillary development of the reclaimed area on the other. It had then allowed the civic body to go ahead with the building of the road, but had stayed any other development work and ordered that matter will be heard on the 8th April 2020. The Apex Court asked the respondent, “Make sure the livelihoods of the fishermen are not effected”
On 25th February, after hearing both sides, the Supreme Court granted time to respondent to file their reply and listed the matter on 8th April 2020.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje