Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (September 22, 2020)

Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 22 September 2020

Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link

The Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL) will not negatively impact flora and fauna, an affidavit filed by project proponent, Larsen and Toubro (L&T) Ltd September 19, 2020, about the status of the project and measures to mitigate its environmental impact, said.

L&T had taken all requisite and necessary steps to ensure that flora and fauna in and around the area where construction was being undertaken was not negatively impacted, the document added.

All requirements as mandated by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority  were being satisfied, it said.

The MTHL was approved January 25, 2016, by the MoEF&CC under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 2011. The project and its approval were the subject matter of the appeal filed by Dileep B Nevatia.

“The purpose of both the 2011 CRZ Notification and the 2006 EIA Notification is not to stall development, but to have it while ensuring protection of the environment and to mitigate any damage caused to the environment,” the report said.

The construction of a trans-harbour sea link in CRZ zones was permissible according to clause 3 (iv) of the 2011 CRZ Notification. Clause 8 (i) provided that the development or construction activities in different categories of CRZ should be regulated by the concerned Coastal Zone Management Authority.

The construction of a trans-harbour sea link in CRZ-I without affecting the tidal flow of water between the low tide line and high tide line was permitted.

The general consultant of the project had sent a letter January 15 to L&T, enclosing a checklist detailing compliance of conditions set out in the CRZ Clearance. One of the conditions was ‘compensatory mangrove restoration’.

The chief conservator of forests (mangrove cell) had been entrusted with restoration of over 200 hectares (ha). Payments of around Rs 5.05 crore had been made by the project proponent to the chief conservator of forests for these measures. The mangrove cell had completed plantation on 105 ha of degraded land in various locations such as Palghar and Mumbai Suburban, the report added.

Mechaki OIL project

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) September 17 directed the MoEF&CC to submit a report on the proposed onshore oil and gas development drilling and production in the Mechaki area consisting of Mechaki, Mechaki Extension, Baghjan and Tinsukia Extension in the Tinsukia district of Assam by Oil India Ltd (OIL).

The proposed project is stated to be in a highly ecologically sensitive and fragile area, with the Mechaki block being located in close proximity to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and the Maguri-Motapung wetland complex. The block is also part of the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve.

It was alleged that the environmental clearance had been granted in violation of the EIA Notification, 2006, as the project proponent had concealed information in Form-1.

Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary

The NGT September 18 directed that a joint committee be constituted to look into the illegal constructions within Agra district’s Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary. The committee would consist of the chief wildlife warden of Uttar Pradesh and nominees of the National Board for Wildlife and the forest division of MoEF&CC.

An application filed before the NGT had said that Hindustan Institute of Technology & Management, Agra (HIT) and Anand Engineering College, Agra (AEC) were within the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary.

The NGT noted that though the protected area in the map of sanctuary was 403.09 hectare (ha), the area of the sanctuary was said to be 1,020.25 ha, which included 403.09 ha. There are constructions outside 403.09 ha but within 1020.25 ha.

If they were part of the wildlife sanctuary, under Section 27 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, such constructions were not allowed and were illegal unless the boundary of the wildlife sanctuary itself was changed under Section 26A of the Act.

The constructions in question were said to be built after the 1991 notification. Thus, either it should be clearly declared that the area was part of the wildlife sanctuary and in such case all constructions in the said area should be removed. Or the boundary of the wildlife sanctuary itself should be appropriately demarcated and laid down, the NGT order said.

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