MMB breaches CRZ rules in Aksa Beach sea wall
NAVI MUMBAIThe Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) has admitted that it has nearly completed the construction of an anti-sea wall across the Aksa Beach at Malad in Mumbai in violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms as apprehended by the environmentalists
The Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) has admitted that it has nearly completed the construction of an anti-sea wall across the Aksa Beach at Malad in Mumbai in violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms as apprehended by the environmentalists.
Hearing the application filed by NatConnect Foundation director B N Kumar and Mumbai-based activist Zoru Bahena, the Western Zine National Green Tribunal (NGT) has put it on record the MMB’s confession on December 1. The detailed order has just been uploaded.
The applicants’ counsel Gayatri Singh pointed out that the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has granted a conditional CRZ nod for the anti-sea erosion measures stipulating that no solid construction should take place in the CRZ1 area and that the work should be limited to the landward side. MMB has violated this by building a massive wall and a road alongside.
MMB has now filed a fresh application with the MCZMA seeking to delete the important condition and grant a post-facto clearance for building the seawall. MMB justified it by saying that its construction on the landward side of the hightide line was constrained by the private properties there.
Gayatri Singh vehemently opposed it and said a post-facto approval cannot be granted and said the illegal wall should be demolished forthwith.
MMB advocate Saket Mane admitted the violation by his client and argued that the anti-sea erosion measures are justifiable even under the CRZ notification. He also quoted expert reports including the one from IIT, Mumbai, justifying an anti-sea erosion bund at Aksa Beach. The report also upheld the fresh alignment for the bund on the ground that some electric poles were collapsing due to erosion.
Gayatri Singh contended that there was no sign of any anti-sea erosion bund and that MMB actually built a wall. Moreover, MMB was aware of the topography of the site and it should have raised the concern regarding the existence of private properties along the landward side of the High Tide Line, prior to the CRZ clearance being granted.
The raising of this concern at a belated stage made it evident that the MMB did not intend to comply with the CRZ clearance and that it had constructed the seawall in complete violation of the CRZ clearance, the applicants’ counsel said.
The applicants also filed an affidavit opposing the MMB stand and pointed out that the Board did not provide any scientific studies indicating that Aksa Beach is an eroding site, which made it necessary to construct the anti-sea erosion bund or that the construction was required at the site proposed by it. The affidavit said the entire Aksa beach falls in CRZ I-A and CRZ I-B areas.
The applicants also pointed out that the Supreme Court had stayed the 1.2 km long RCC wall at Versova beach which was earlier upheld by the NGT Bench.
The affidavit said that the portion of the beach falling towards the landward side of the road will be completely eroded, if the wall is permitted to exist, as the wall and the road will disallow natural deposition of the sediments/sand on the other side of the wall/road.
The Bench - comprising Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh as judicial member and Dr. Vijay Kulkarni as expert member – recorded that almost 95% work of the anti-sea erosion bund has already been completed. The MMB lawyer quoted the CRZ notification and pointed out that this is a permissible activity.
The Bench however directed the MCZMA to decide this matter within a period of one month positively and that the “matter cannot be kept open ended for indefinite period”.
NGT asked MMB to file its study reports before the MCZMA within 20 days and directed it not to complete the construction.
The next hearing has been posted for February 23.