Bombay HC stays BMC’s cycle track around Powai lake

The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday has restrained the BMC from constructing a 10-km cycle track bordering Powai lake till November 18 after it was informed that such activity would violate wetlands guidelines and rules
The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday has restrained the BMC from constructing a 10-km cycling track bordering Powai lake till November 18 after it was informed that such activity would violate wetlands guidelines and rules (HT FILE)
The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday has restrained the BMC from constructing a 10-km cycling track bordering Powai lake till November 18 after it was informed that such activity would violate wetlands guidelines and rules (HT FILE)
Published on Nov 01, 2021 11:24 PM IST
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ByKAY Dodhiya, Mumbai

The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday has restrained the BMC from constructing a 10-km cycling track bordering Powai Lake till November 18 after it was informed that such activity would violate wetlands guidelines and rules. The grievance raised by students of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) through a public interest litigation (PIL) has stated that such a track would harm the wetlands ecosystem as well as disrupt the natural flora and fauna associated within the lake and hence the same should be stopped.

However, the BMC, refuted the claims made in the PIL and stated that it was a manmade reservoir and hence the area surrounding the lake would not come under the purview of wetland guidelines and rules. The court has asked the state to ascertain the claim of BMC and asked both the state and BMC to file their replies within a week and posted hearing of the PIL on November 15.

A division bench of justice SJ Kathawalla and SP Tavade, while hearing the PIL filed by Omkar Supekar and Abhishek Tripathi, both PhD research scholars at IIT-B, was informed by advocate Rajmani Varma that the Powai lake was the habitat of the Indian marsh crocodiles and permitting the cycle track project would have an adverse impact on the crocodiles.

Varma further submitted that the project was opposed by activists, environmentalists and local citizens and the issue was opposed by BJP councillors in the BMC. The PIL stated that till the information on the cycle track project was made available in the public domain and was followed by a public hearing, the site should be restored to its original form with immediate effect.

The petitioners also sought creation of an online platform for dissemination of information on wetlands and timely reports of proposed projects and redressal of citizen grievances in a specific time frame.

The PIL has also stated that in 2009, the Supreme Court had passed a judgement that had stressed on safeguarding wetlands and hence sought directions to the BMC to comply with it. The PIL also sought documents that indicated the lake had been denotified, thus permitting reclamation and construction on the ecologically sensitive and fragile Powai wetland.

However, senior advocate Aspi Chinoy and advocate Joel Carlos, for the BMC, opposed the PIL and said that it was misconceived and the lake was a manmade reservoir and hence did not fall under the purview of wetlands. Chinoy added that the project was in public interest and there was no violation of rules governing such reservoirs.

The court was also informed that the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which is the appropriate authority for such issues, was seized of the matter.

When the bench sought to know from the state whether the claims of BMC were valid, additional government pleader Jyoti Chavan, for the state, sought time to take instructions. The bench then directed both the state and the BMC to file affidavits in reply and stayed the construction till November 18. The PIL is expected to come up for hearing on November 15.

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