Mumbai civic body yet to pay Rs 254 crore for environmental conservation over coastal road
After work began in Dec, BMC yet to pay 2% of project cost for environmental nod granted in 2017Updated: Feb 13, 2019 08:01 IST
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is building the coastal road along the city’s west coast, has not deposited Rs 254 crore for environmental conservation as per the requirements for the environment clearance (EC) that was granted to the project in May 2017.
The expert appraisal committee had stipulated that the BMC should deposit this money with the Mangrove Foundation of Maharashtra before starting on the construction. Work on the proposed eight-lane coastal road was inaugurated in December 2018.
According to the EC issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), before beginning work on the coastal road, 2% of total cost of the Rs 12,721-crore project – or Rs 254 crore – should have been deposited by the BMC with the Mangrove Foundation of Maharashtra, an autonomous society that assists the state government in marine conservation, to improve coastal marine biodiversity.
“The funds are to be transferred on or before commencement of the construction work and a report in this regard to be forwarded to regional office of MoEFCC,” read the condition in the EC and minutes of the expert appraisal committee in March 17, 2017. Copies of both documents are with HT.
N Vasudevan, executive director of the foundation and additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell, confirmed funds have not been received.
The chief engineer of the coastal road project, Mohan Machiwala, said “We submitted a six monthly report to MoEFCC in January and the project has started only after that. As far as the funds are concerned, we have not received any letter from the Mangrove Foundation, but since it is a condition binding on us, we will look into the issue and take appropriate action to ensure the issue is resolved.”
The MoEFCC said that they have not received the conservation plan from the BMC. A senior MoEFCC official who was on the committee that granted the EC said, “We had also directed BMC to develop a marine biodiversity conservation plan within 24 months of the environment clearance at a budget of Rs 10 crore. However, there has been no communication to us about any developments on this front either.”
Muncipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta refused to comment on the issue.
Another BMC officer said, “No mangroves will be lost in the first phase of construction but the marine biodiversity conservation plan is being prepared with the help of the University of Mumbai and will be completed before the stipulated time frame issued by MoEFCC.”
Marine biologists said the project construction is likely to cause large scale sedimentation and high turbidity in the coastal water, which could destroy marine life in the area.
“Immediate damage to marine environment cannot be ruled out,” said Baban Ingole, head of the marine biology department at the National Institute of Oceanography.
Concerns have also been raised by south Mumbai residents, who have raised questions about the noise levels at the work sites and the environmental impact of the project. The BMC has said any trees that may be cut for the project will be replanted and Priyadarshini Park would not be encroached upon.
Work on the 9.98-km first phase of the project, at a cost of Rs 12,721 crore, is underway with land reclamation in parts of south Mumbai and activity regarding survey at sea, said BMC officials.
First Published: Feb 12, 2019 23:28 IST