HC lifts stay, paves way for work on Kalu dam in Thane
The Bombay high court (HC) has paved the way for restarting construction of Kalu dam near Murbad in Thane district, by vacating its March 2012 stay on further work at the site. The dam, with a capacity of 407 million cubic metres, will supply drinking water to Bhiwandi, Kalyan and Ulhasnagar tehsils.
A division bench of justices SC Dharmadhikari and RI Chagla, on Monday, disposed of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the NGO Shramik Mukti Sanghatana, seeking direction to strike down work orders for the project on the grounds that necessary environmental clearances had not been obtained. The NGO had also sought orders to stop on-going work and remove the heavy machinery on-site.
The court had on March 1, 2012, restrained the project proponent, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) from undertaking any construction activity without prior HC permission. Levelling of land for the project was being done at that time. In all, 2,100 hectare of land, including forest spread over 999.328 hectare (ha), will be submerged under Kalu dam water and 787 families from six villages will need to be rehabilitated.
The bench disposed of the PIL primarily after noticing that in-principle forest clearance has been granted by the Centre for diversion of 999.328ha for the project and all preparations have been made for resettlement of the villages. The bench rejected the contention advanced by the petitioner’s counsel, senior advocate Gayatri Singh, that several dams had already been constructed in this tribal belt in Thane district and Kalu dam was not required.
The bench said it was for the government to determine the necessity of a project. The judges took note of the affidavit filed by the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation, stating that the dam has been planned to cater to the needs of the future population of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.