Complete Kanjurmarg dump hearing in 3 months: SC to HC
The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday directed the Bombay high court (HC), which has been hearing the Kanjurmarg dumpyard case for nine years, to complete the hearing within three months.
The SC was hearing a special leave petition (SLP), filed by environment group Vanashakti on January 17, challenging a December 5, 2019 HC order which allowed the expansion of the dumping ground to 121 hectares (ha), from 65ha. The petitioner claimed that the expansion was in violation of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms and would cause irreparable damage to the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS).
The SC bench, comprising chief justice SA Bobde, and justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant, said the HC should consult expert groups such as Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to assess the adverse effects of the expansion and its impact on TCFS and its ESZ. “We are of the view that the interest of justice would be best served if the HC disposes of the matter pending before it, as expeditiously as possible, preferably within a period of three months from today [February 14],” read the SC order published on Saturday. “We also consider it appropriate if the HC obtain the report of an expert body like BNHS and NEERI before taking a final decision,” the bench stated, disposing the SLP.
Stalin D, director, Vanashakti, said he hopes “NEERI and BNHS will submit a truthful scientific report on the issue”. “The [Bombay] HC’s December 5, 2019 judgment was shocking and preposterous, which opened the doors to the annihilation of mangroves and wetlands at Thane creek. It implied that Mumbai was legally permitted to dump unsegregated municipal garbage in CRZ areas,” he said.
Zaman Ali, counsel for Vanashakti, said that although scientific reports of the government on the matter have already been submitted to the HC since 2013, the SC’s order is welcome. “The SC order can add more scientific inputs on the mounting ecological damage at Thane creek for almost a decade now. Based on our submissions, the chief justice raised concerns on how the flamingo habitat may be affected, and how expert bodies shed throw more light on this,” said Ali.
Deepak Apte, director, BNHS said, “If the SC has asked us to provide scientific inputs, we will highlight the ecological importance of this sanctuary, which is Asia’s largest creek ecosystem.”
The HC has not yet passed its final judgement on three separate petitions filed by Vanashakti in the Kanjurmarg duping ground case. The first petition was filed in 2012 against the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and other state and Central bodies for the dumping of municipal solid waste at Kanjur, in alleged violation of CRZ 2011 norms. The second petition in 2013 challenged the de-reservation of mangrove forests at Kanjur by the state instead of the Central government, an alleged violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. In July 2019, Vanshakti filed its third petition challenging the expansion of Kanjur from a CRZ to a non-CRZ area, for which BMC acquired environment clearances from the Centre to carry out scientific waste processing on an additional 52.5-ha area, adjacent to the Kanjurmarg dumping site.
On December 5, an HC bench of justices SC Dharmadhikari and RI Chagala had lifted a September 19 stay on waste dumping at the 52.5-ha site. The order stressed that there was a lack of space for dumping and treating solid waste in the city as the Mulund dumpyard was shut in 2018, and the overburdened Deonar dumping ground was also proposed to be shut.
The petitioner, however, claimed that the sanctuary zone had become toxic with large-scale disappearance of fish species and a nauseating odour, especially at night, owing to waste dumping. “Permissions from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) and the environment ministry were issued only because the site lies in CRZ-3, which permits construction after first 100m from the high tide line. Also, waste from all CRZ areas in the city would be taken to this 52.6-ha patch for scientific processing, thus reducing the impact on overburdened landfills,” said a BMC official working on the case.
According to BMC, Mumbai generates 7,000 metric tons (MT) of waste per day, of which 5,500 MT is sent to Kanjurmarg, while 1,500 MT goes to Deonar.