Construction of the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link has hit a roadblock with the National Green Tribunal on Tuesday restraining the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) from beginning construction work on the sea link on the basis of environmental clearance given in March 2005. According to the Environment Impact Assessment notification, environmental clearance is valid only for five years.
The tribunal has admitted a petition filed by Worli-resident Dileep Nevatia stating that environment clearance for the 22-km sea link, to connect Sewri to Nhava Sheva, was given more than five years ago.
The tribunal has asked the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to not begin any work on the link.
The tribunal has also sought replies from the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), the state government, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board and Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation Ltd.
The tribunal was formed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests. “Innumerable questions relating to the environment are involved,” the tribunal said in its order.
The MMRDA is currently in the final stages of awarding the tender for the Rs. 8,800-cr sea bridge and the tribunal has allowed the tendering process to go on.
“We direct MMRDA to complete the tender process, but to not take any final decision or issue the work order, if not already issued, without obtaining prior permission of this tribunal,” a bench headed by the tribunal’s acting chairperson AS Naidu stated.
The petitioner has also claimed that the ecological significance of the Sewri mudflats was not taken into consideration and no public hearing was conducted after the comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment Report was prepared in 2004. The Sewri mudflats are home to flamingoes and other migratory birds that descend on the city every winter.
The petition has sought direction to MMRDA to obtain fresh environmental clearance for the sea link project.
“We are doing the same thing that the petitioner wants,” metropolitan commissioner Rahul Asthana said.
“We are in the process of obtaining fresh environmental clearance,” he added.