Fishermen move Bombay HC opposing environmental nod for JNPT’s expansion

The petition, filed by Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP), said that reclamation across 110 hectares by JNPT for its 4th container terminal violated their right to livelihood as the work is destroying fishing areas.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), in Navi Mumbai is setting up a fourth container terminal.(Bloomberg File Photo)
The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), in Navi Mumbai is setting up a fourth container terminal.(Bloomberg File Photo)
Updated on Feb 05, 2020 11:42 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Mumbai | ByBadri Chatterjee

Fishermen in Navi Mumbai filed a petition before the Bombay high court on Monday opposing the environment clearances (EC) given to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) to expand its container facilities.

The petition, filed by Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP), said that reclamation across 110 hectares by JNPT for its 4th container terminal violated their right to livelihood as the work is destroying fishing areas. The petition was filed against JNPT, the Union environment ministry and various departments of the state government.

The petition, which HT has reviewed, identified that the construction has reduced fishing areas, destroyed wetlands and has forced villagers to relocate. Nandkumar Pawar, head, SEAP said, “The site has been identified as an ecologically sensitive area by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority, and falls within coastal regulation zone (CRZ-IA) where such construction activities are not permitted. However, the EC identifies the zone as CRZIV where construction is allowed.”

JNPT on Wednesday issued a detailed statement responding to queries posed by Hindustan Times to them, and also shared copies of the EC and CRZ clearances issued on June 12 and October 9, 2019 for the balance work of the 4th container terminal project. The statement further read that allegations of mangrove destruction near the Nhava jetty area were false. JNPT said they had not carried out any construction at this site.

“We would like to reaffirm that we have worked well within the prescribed limits as outlined by the competent authorities. The coastal berth construction work has all necessary clearances, the work is in progress, and there is no mangrove destruction. We remain a socially conscious organisation, committed to the environment, community, stakeholders, employees and the industry,” read the statement issued by the port trust.

On July 29, 2008, JNPT obtained EC from the union environment ministry to reclaim 200 hectares to build storage yards, roads, railway, depots, parking areas and office buildings, etc. In phase 1 of the project, construction work was done across 90 hectares, including 19.5-hectares of mangrove forest. JNPT claims only 16.5 hectares mangroves were destroyed. On October 9, 2019, JNPT obtained fresh CRZ clearances from the state’s coastal authority to start work on the second phase. JNPT claims no mangrove trees will be destroyed in the second phase.

Last month, HT had reported on January 18 that close to 7,000 mangrove trees were found destroyed across two locations falling within the project area found by the Raigad district administration.

The petition pointed out that the mandatory public consultation while obtaining an EC under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2006, had been done away with. “We have never objected to development but in this case, JNPT’s construction has edged into our creeks, mangrove forests, salt pans, which flooded 20 villages in Uran during monsoon 2019 affecting 1,236 families,” said Parmanand Jaywant Koli, sarpanch, Hanuman Koliwada village and one of the petitioners. Flooding of 20 villages affecting over 1,200 families was confirmed by the Raigad district collector through a right-to-information (RTI) response.

According to the EC and the Maharashtra Project Displaced Persons Rehabilitation Act, 1976, project affected persons (Uran residents) were to be provided 16.8 hectares of which 10.5 ha would be used for livelihood activities while 6.3 ha would be used for construction of houses. However, the petition argued that an area of only 2 hectares was allotted, of which, possession was handed over of only 0.91 hectares for construction of homes, which was done in a haphazard manner.

The petitioners’ counsel said this was not the first time that the fishermen had approached courts. In October 2013, fisherman Ramdas Koli moved the National Green Tribunal, western bench, against development projects by JNPT that affected the livelihood of residents of Uran, Hanuman Koliwada, Gavhan, and Belpada villages which have around 1,630 families that depend on fishing as the main occupation. In March 2015, in a landmark order, the western bench of the NGT ordered JNPT, City Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to pay Rs. 95.19 crore to 1630 families within three months. However, the matter was challenged in the Supreme Court by the state agencies, and the final hearing is yet to take place.

“Since JNPT is already tied up with litigation, issuing any EC for future projects is another violation of the EIA notification,” said advocate Meenaz Kakalia.

Destruction of mangroves is illegal under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The Bombay high court banned destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50 metres of mangroves on September 17, 2018.

A bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla in its final order said, “Destruction of mangroves offended the fundamental rights of the citizens and hence it was a mandatory duty of the state and its agencies to protect and preserve the mangroves.”

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021