The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has approached Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar to consider waiving off certain conditions set by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) before approving the Rs12,000-crore coastal road project. This, however, has invited criticism from environmentalists and citizen activists.
In a meeting held late last month to discuss the recent fires at the Deonar dumping ground, civic chief Ajoy Mehta also discussed waiving off conditions mandated by the MCZMA such as setting aside 2% of the total project cost (around Rs250 crore) for mitigation measures, replanting five times the mangroves hacked and construction of a tram service instead of Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS).
Civic officials said the mangroves to be replanted have been increased from three times (mandated as per the central government’s notification) to five times the mangroves destroyed during construction. Civic officials also felt a tram service won’t be feasible and should be waived off. This was discussed with the environment minister along with mitigation measures that have been undertaken in the detailed project report.
The civic body wants the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to give a nod to the project based on its final notification allowing construction of coastal roads by reclamation. One of the senior civic officers said, “We have already pointed out our concerns relating to the MCZMA’s conditions and requested them not to go beyond the final notification and make it more stringent, thus resulting in major changes in the project.” Mehta confirmed the coastal road project had been discussed with the Union minister.
Activists have pointed out the BMC is not serious about protecting the environment and has not taken into consideration the standards set by the MCZMA. Darryl D’monte, chairman of Forum for environmental journalists in India, said, “The impact on mangroves will be very high owing to this project. The BMC is making a complete mockery of the environment clearance procedure by seeking to dilute conditions laid down by the MCZMA . The civic body has not even taken any public hearing, which is mandatory before a big project.”
Stalin D, project director of NGO Vanashakti, said, “Mangroves do not grow like a terrestrial forest, they grow naturally, Mangroves also give immense ecological balance to surrounding areas. The civic body could have easily constructed roads on stilts. Cutting mangroves in Mumbai and planning to plant them back at Dahanu only shows how serious the government is about protecting the environment.”