Bombay HC allows 1,585 mangrove trees to be cut for new sea link from Bandra to Versova
The Bombay high court on Friday allowed the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to cut 1,585 mangrove trees to build the ₹11,332-crore Bandra-Versova sea link. The high court’s approval was the final clearance the state body required to begin work on the project.
A division bench of justice Bhushan Gavai and justice NJ Jamadar allowed MSRDC to remove mangroves spread over 2.99 hectares. The bench noted that the sea link was a critical infrastructure project that would help decongest SV Road and the western express highway — two arterial roads connecting the western suburbs. The judges noted that the roads are sometimes so congested, it takes more than two hours to reach Versova from south Mumbai. The mangroves will be cleared to accommodate three connectors of the sea link — at Bandra, Versova, and Juhu Koliwada.
To ensure MSRDC follows the conditions imposed by other authorities that cleared the project, the court has asked it to file an affidavit, in which a senior officer gives an undertaking saying the body will abide by the conditions imposed by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority, Chief Conservator of Forests and the Ministry of Environment and Forests. MSRDC approached the court after earlier HC orders prohibited cutting mangroves without the court’s permission.
MSRDC counsel, senior advocate Milind Sathe, told the court that the project proponent (MSRDC) had already got coastal regulation zone, environmental and forest department clearances. Sathe urged the court to allow MSRDC to cut the 1,585 mangrove trees in larger public interest. He pointed out the MSRDC has paid the cost of afforestation — to plant a compensatory 13,000 mangrove trees elsewhere — to the Mangrove Cell.
The Bandra-Versova sea link is a part of the Western Express Highway corridor, spread over 30km. The first part of the corridor was the Bandra-Worli sea link, which is already functional. The Bandra-Versova sea link is planned as an eight lane bridge constructed across the sea, about 500 metres from the coast. The 9.890-km link will have dispersal points at Bandra and Versova, and a connector at Juhu Koliwada.
The project was estimated to cost ₹4,045 crore in 2012; the estimates were revised to ₹7,502 crore in 2015-16, and now to ₹11,332.82 crore. The sea link is expected to be completed five years after work begins.