HC allows felling of 350 mangrove trees for Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway

Feb 09, 2023 12:42 AM IST

Mumbai: The Bombay high court has allowed the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to divert 0

Mumbai: The Bombay high court has allowed the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to divert 0.0785 hectare of mangrove forest and fell 350 mangrove trees in Thane and Palghar districts for the Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway.

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HT Image

“The Vadodara-Mumbai greenfield expressway, which forms a part of the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway corridor, will benefit a large section of population in Maharashtra, Gujrat and Union Territory of Daman, Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Considering the importance of the project we deem it appropriate to grant permission sought for,” the division bench of acting chief justice SV Gangapurwala and justice Sandeep Marne said in its order of February 2. The order became available only on Wednesday.

The HC said development of roads and bridges is a permissible activity and in any case is not prohibited within Coastal Regulatory Zone-IA. Besides, the court said, Bharatmala Pariyojana is a new umbrella programme for the highways sector that focuses on optimising efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country and the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway is part of the ambitious and mammoth project.

The NHAI was required to move the HC, as the court had in September 2018 passed an elaborate order on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a city-based NGO, Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG), imposing a total freeze on the destruction and cutting of mangroves across Maharashtra, stopping all constructions within 50 metres on all sides of the mangrove areas, prohibiting issuance of development permissions by any authority on any mangrove areas without prior permission of the court.

The authority had initially said that the project would affect 3.950 hectares of mangrove forest in Thane and Palghar districts and would require felling of 1,001 mangrove trees. The NHAI had informed HC that they had obtained all necessary permissions and environmental and CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) clearances from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change.

On January 19, 2023, the NHAI filed an affidavit informing the court that the modified plans would affect only 0.0785 hectare, instead of the originally proposed area of 3.950 hectare and only 350 mangrove trees would be required to be felled, instead of 1,001 as contemplated earlier.

Though the BEAG opposed the NHAI’s plea, the court took into consideration that the authority had obtained all requisite permissions and were subjected to stringent conditions like compensatory afforestation through forest department and to develop a separate nursery to raise at least 1,00,000 seedlings of forestry species and allowed the NHAI to proceed with the project.

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