Mumbai: Activist withdraws plea against diversion of forests land, work at Bandra-Versova Sea Link may resume

Work on at Bandra Versova Sea Link at Bandra.(HT File)
Work on at Bandra Versova Sea Link at Bandra.(HT File)
Updated on Dec 17, 2020 12:34 AM IST
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ByKanchan Chaudhari, Mumbai

Activist Zoru Bhathena on Wednesday withdrew his application opposing diversion of about 30,000 square meters of mangrove forest for the construction of Bandra-Versova Sea Link, thus paving the way for the project proponent, Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to begin work on the important transportation project.

Bhathena’s counsel advocate Ronita Bhattacharya agreed to withdraw his application after the bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni opined that it had become infructuous given January 25 order of the ministry of environment and forests and climate change (MoEF&CC), correcting the area from which mangroves were permitted to be cut - from earlier 150 square meters to 1,500 square meters.

Bhathena had moved HC opposing the petition filed by MSRDC, seeking HC’s permission for felling 1,585 mangrove trees for the construction of Bandra-Versova Sea Link.

He had complained that there were discrepancies in different permissions granted for the project, making it difficult to gauge the exact mangrove area likely to be affected by the project and it showed the arbitrariness and lack of proper application of mind in deciding the proposal by MoEF&CC.

Discarding his objections, on February 8, 2019, HC had granted MSRDC permission to cut 1,585 mangrove trees on the ground that the project was of vital importance for the city and the permissions were subject to a condition to plant 13,332 mangrove trees at Charkop, to compensate the environmental loss.

Bhathena had then carried the matter to the Apex court which has remanded the matter back to HC for fresh consideration.

Acting on his plea, HC had on September 20, 2019, directed MoEF&CC to explain the discrepancies in two permissions granted for the sea link - while the Coastal Regulation Zone clearance stated that there will be permanent loss of mangroves on 150 square meters and temporary loss on 50 square meters, the permission granted under provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, talked of diverting 2.997 hectares - about 30,000 square meters of mangrove forest for the project, and permitted cutting of 1,585 mangroves.

In this backdrop, HC had on September 20, 2019, restrained MSRDC from cutting any mangroves, except from the 200 square meters area required for construction of the 10 pillars of the sea link.

On Wednesday, HC felt that the please had become infructuous, given the January 2020 MoEF&CC order. Bhattacharya then urged the court to allow her to file a fresh plea to challenge the MoEF&CC order within two weeks or so.

She urged HC to continue September 20, 2019, in the meantime, expressing apprehension that MSRDC would divert forest area of 30,000 square meters taking advantage of the CR-Z clearance.

HC granted her liberty to file a fresh plea but refused to continue the interim order.

Bandra-Versova Sea Link forms part of the larger Coastal Road project of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and is being proposed to ease traffic congestion on SV Road and Western Express Highway. It is also expected to cut the travel time from south Mumbai to the airport.

Bandra Versova Sea Link will take the Coastal Road forward from Bandra-end of the Worli Bandra Sea Link and will have three connectors at Carter Road in Bandra, Juhu Koliwada and Versova, which will enable residents of these localities to use the entire sea link conveniently.

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