Mangrove cutting for sea link: SC sends petition back to HC
The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday sent back the matter of felling mangrove trees for the Versova-Bandra Sea Link (VBSL) project to the Bombay high court (HC). The Apex Court was hearing a special leave petition filed by Khar resident and environmentalist Zoru Bhathena on March 25.
The HC, on February 8, had allowed Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) — the agency implementing the rupees 11,332-crore project — to cut 1,585 mangrove trees on around 3 hectares. It was the final clearance MSRDC required to begin work on the project.
“The SC bench of justice Nageshwar Rao and justice MR Shah said how could the HC pass an order where 2.9907 hectare of mangroves can be permitted to be cut. The environment ministry’s CRZ permission in 2013 [for the project] was subject to only 150 square metres mangrove felling for a bridge to be built on stilts,” said Jatin Zaveri, counsel for the petitioner.
“We told the SC bench that the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority nod for the project mandated that no mangroves be destroyed. In such circumstances, MSRDC’s dem-and for 30,000 sqm of mangroves is unnecessary and akin to environmental destruction.”
A senior MSRDC official, who did not wish to be named, explained why there has been a change in mangrove area lost to the project. “CRZ area and deemed reserved forest are two different zones,” he said. “While we received CRZ clearance [150 sqm] long ago, the other permission [30,000 sqm] pertained to forest clearance was given by the mangrove cell of the forest department. Earlier, our consultant had done a feasibility study that recorded 150 sqm [of mangrove loss] for the project. However, since there are sparse mangroves in some areas and no trees in others, the clearance by forest department recorded the total mangrove area that will be lost.”
“Based on this explanation, we got clearance from HC. We will explain the same [in HC] again.”
State government sources, who were involved in the clearance process, said the MSRDC proposal read that 2.9907 hectares of mangroves would be lost. “We do not decide how much mangrove area is lost. We only assess and ensure there is least possible damage,” said an official.
Bhathena, meanwhile, thanked the SC. “We are grateful the SC took note of our complaint, and allowed us to go back to HC to resolve the issue,” he said.
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