Bombay HC upholds order allowing JNPA to go ahead with Vadhavan port | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Bombay HC upholds order allowing JNPA to go ahead with Vadhavan port

Apr 19, 2024 09:51 AM IST

Vadhavan was chosen for its natural features. The port is to be developed in joint venture with MMB at an estimated cost of ₹76,220 crore

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Thursday upheld the July 2023 order passed by the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA) allowing Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA) to develop a greenfield port at Vadhavan in Palghar district stating that the DTEPA has taken ‘all relevant aspects into consideration’.

Vadhavan in Dahanu has been selected for the Greenfield Port because of its unique natural features
Vadhavan in Dahanu has been selected for the Greenfield Port because of its unique natural features

A division bench of justice AS Chandurkar and justice Jitendra Jain was hearing petitions filed by Conservation Action Trust through its executive trustee Debi Goenka, and National Fishworker’s Forum, challenging the DTEPA order. “We find that the Authority has taken into consideration all relevant aspects for concluding that approval for setting up the Greenfield Port at Vadhavan, Taluka Dahanu ought to be granted,” said the bench while rejecting the petition.

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The bench also added that the DTEPA has proposed mitigation measures by constituting a Monitoring Committee for different subjects and a Grievance Committee has already been constituted for considering the grievances of all stakeholders.

“The approval of the DTEPA is only a step towards the actual establishment of the Greenfield Port. JNPA is required to obtain all necessary clearances and approvals from various authorities as well as the Expert Appraisal Committee and the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). These authorities exercise jurisdiction over different environmental spheres and only on the project being approved by all of them can the Greenfield Port be established,” the bench said.

The court also commented on the ‘U-turn’ taken by the DTEPA in September 1998, when a proposal was mooted by the state government, stating that a mega port would be wholly impermissible in Dahanu takula, as the region was declared as ‘ecologically fragile area’ by MoEF&CC.

In this regard, the court said the situation as existing in 1998 when the activity of development of the port in Dahanu taluka was held impermissible has undergone a sea-change, as then it was held to be impermissible for being an ‘industry in red category’, but the tag is subsequently removed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the MoEF&CC has allowed ports, harbours etc. in ecologically fragile areas.

In any case, the court said, after the change in location from on-shore to off-shore, the Greenfield Port would be established at about six kilometres from the shoreline. “The offshore area was found to fall beyond the area of Dahanu Taluka and within the domain of the Central Government.”

The court also rejected the contention of the petitioners that the DTPEA did not consider the change in terms of reference by which the proposed reclamation increased from 86.88 mcum (million cubic meters) to 200 mcum, as the location of the Port changed from on-shore to off-shore, requiring more reclamation.

In this regard, the court accepted the argument advanced by JNPA that earlier apprehension was about shoreline change and therefore the port was shifted from on-shore to off-shore – nearly 6 km away from the shore and only a connecting highway and railway line would be required to be constructed on the shore.

According to JNPA, Vadhavan in Dahanu taluka of Palghar district has been selected for the Greenfield Port because of its unique natural features for construction of a modern all-weather port where large vessels could berth round the year to carry international seaborne trade -- 18 meters naturally available draft and 20 meters navigational channel -- that would drastically minimize capital and maintenance dredging.

The port is being developed by JNPA in a joint venture with the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) with equity shares of 74% and 26% respectively, with an estimated cost of 76,220 crore. The total project area is 17,471 hectares, including 16,906 hectares of port area and the remaining 571 hectares earmarked for ancillary activities.

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    Special Correspondent. I have spent over a decade covering courts in Mumbai, primarily the Bombay High Court, and including several important trials like trial of 120 accused in March 1993 Mumbai bombings, 26/11 case - trial of Ajmal Kasab.

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