Can environment authorities regularise violations by construction and industrial projects when the law doesn’t allow it?
After receiving orders from the Union environment ministry that state procedures to regularise illegal constructions, the Maharashtra State Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has sought clarification on the issue from the Central ministry, in a meeting held in November. The minutes of the meeting were issued on Tuesday.
The state coastal body has questioned the validity of the Union environment ministry’s three orders, issued in December 2012, June, 2013 and September 2014, which lay down steps to clear projects that violated the law, typically by starting construction without getting the mandatory clearances from statutory environment bodies.
“There is no provision for regularising violations in CRZ notification 2011 [which stipulated the need for a nod]. This has also been corroborated in a recent high court order of October 2014. How can the coastal authority then deal with cases of CRZ violations? The orders are contradictory to the law,” said a committee member.
The coastal body has sought guidance from MOEF, as there are nearly 500 buildings in the city and in Navi Mumbai that were constructed without its nod.
The Union environment ministry has cleared several illegal projects, after initiating actions against the builder responsible.
The prosecuted developers mostly get away with a fine of up to Rs1 lakh, a sum that does not pinch them.
However, the state is keen on regularising the violations.
“Several projects were approved by the urban development department instead of the coastal body earlier. These are now considered illegal. We can’t demolish all buildings. So, those who committed the violation deliberately face prosecution. It is important to look into the spirit of the law, rather than interpreting it narrowly,” said a senior bureaucrat.