High Court asks MCZMA, SEIAA to reconsider CRZ clearances
The Bombay High Court (HC) recently expressed dissatisfaction and observed that state environmental authorities proceeded in “faulty and defective” manner to grant Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances to the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) to execute the work of Phase-1 (7.02 km) of the Coastal Road from Amra Marg to Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) junction, including the 1.02-km Navi Mumbai Airport Link.
However, a division bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay V Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep V Marne on April 25 observed that the project was of “vital public importance” providing a link to the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport and MTHL, and with the airport and MTHL at an advanced stage of completion, expeditious construction of the proposed Coastal Road by CIDCO is equally important.
In light of this, the court said CIDCO deserved “another opportunity” to seek clearances and asked it to submit a fresh proposal with the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), which would consider the same in its meeting in the first week of May. Thereafter, the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), on receipt of proposal by CIDCO with MCZMA recommendations by May 15, shall consider the same in its next meeting.
The total length of the Coastal Road is 10.106 km with Phase 2 from MTHL to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) of 3.08 km. Alignment of the road passes through CRZ-I and CRZ-II areas and the project involved diversion of 32.6921 hectares of forest land and also requires felling of mangroves trees.
The bench noted that the date of submission of CIDCO’s proposal with MCZMA for CRZ clearance was not disclosed. The MCZMA in its meeting held in January 2017 found that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environment Management Plan (EMP) Reports were not specific to the project and the data in the same was vague without details of flora and fauna therein.
The authority then deferred the proposal. CIDCO in April 2017 submitted some details with revised EIA, after which MCZMA considered CIDCO’s proposal in June 2017 and recommended it to the Environment and Forest Ministry with respect to CRZ subject to submission of specific details by CIDCO.
CIDCO in January 2018 responded to MCZMA’s letter stating that requisite information was supplied to it and the same was accepted. CIDCO then approached SEIAA which granted its clearance in August, 2019.
CIDCO also approached MoEFCC for diversion of 32.69 hectares of forest land for construction of the Coastal Road. MoEFCC accorded in-principle approval under the Forests (Conservation) Act, 1980 subject to various conditions imposed in the letter dated October 19, 2022. The petitioner CIDCO then filed a present plea seeking permission of HC for execution of the project and also made the Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) as respondent to the plea.
The bench termed MCZMA’S procedure to be “defective” and deficiencies related to non-submission of specific EMP was not cleared, therefore, it was “not impressed” with MCZMA.
The court found “fallacy” in MCZMA’s stand that while it confirmed in its affidavit the receipt of plankton studies, “silence is maintained” related to non-submission of site-specific EMP.
The bench noted that in the September 2018 verdict of HC in BEAG case, total freeze was imposed on destruction of mangroves without court’s permission. MCZMA in 2017 had not made discussion on destruction of mangroves for the project and as the substantial time lapsed since then, the authorities had to reconsider the clearances.
The bench said that instead of declining nod to CIDCO “based on faulty procedures adopted by MCZMA and SEIAA,” the proposal can be considered afresh.
HC will hear the plea next on June 6.