National Green Tribunal orders not to begin construction on the basis of seven-year-old environment clearance
The country’s largest sea link, the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, has hit a roadblock after the National Green Tribunal restrained the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) from beginning construction work on the project on the basis of an environmental clearance obtained seven years ago. However, it has allowed the authority to go ahead with the bidding process for the 22-km-long sea link project.
The tribunal’s verdict came on May 29 in response to a petition by Dileep B Nevatia, resident from Worli, who claimed that since work on the project did not commence despite granting environmental clearance in March 2005, the clearance stands void now. Admitting the plea for hearing, the bench said that substantial questions relating to environment are involved in this case, which needs to be considered.
The petitioner also challenged the environmental clearance issued for the project on the grounds that it ignored the significance of the Sewree mudflats and that no public hearing was conducted after the environment impact assessment report was prepared in 2004. The Sewree mudflats are home to flamingos and other migratory birds that descend on the city every winter. “We sought directions to MMRDA to seek fresh environmental clearance for the project,” said advocate Rahul Chaudhary who appeared for the petitioner.
When contacted joint project director public relations, MMRDA, Dilip Kavathkar, denied that the order will be a hurdle in the Rs 8,000 crore project. “We will take all the permissions and clearances afresh and continue with the project as per the directions of the tribunal,” Kavathkar said.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority has created another roadblock by ordering MMRDA not to undertake construction activities during the period when flamingos migrate to the city. As a result MMRDA is left with only two-and-half months in a year—May, October and half of November to carry out the construction work. The order has baffled MMRDA officials. “We cannot work like this. It will take us ages to complete the project which, otherwise would have taken around six years. October, November and May are the crucial months for construction. There cannot be any work during remaining period due to monsoon,” Kavathkar said.
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation proposed the sea link in 1960. At that time the project envisaged connecting Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. Later in 2009 the project was handed over to MMRDA and now it proposes to connect the Navi Mumbai International Airport as well.
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