SC refuses to stay HC order stopping coastal road work
The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday refused to grant interim relief to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and its contractors, who challenged the Bombay high court’s (HC) July 16 order restraining work on the Rs14,000-crore coastal road project.
In its plea, the civic body claimed stay on the work is causing a loss of Rs 10 crore a day. Machinery worth Rs 150 crore is lying unused, while 1,150 workers are sitting idle at the site, the plea stated.
The BMC sought permission to carry out work at construction sites to ensure the rains don’t damage the reclamation that has been completed.
The SC bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta also issued notices to all petitioners before the HC (now respondents), as well as the Maharashtra government, to submit responses to the BMC’s plea for interim relief. The matter has been scheduled for a hearing on August 20.
The HC division bench of chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice NM Jamdar, while hearing six petitions raising concerns about environmental damage caused by the project on July 16, quashed all clearances granted under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification by the state and central agencies.
The civic body was also asked to get a fresh clearance (EC) under the Environmental Impact Assessment, 2006, before restarting work.
“The SC bench said an order of stay cannot be granted so easily and both parties will have to be heard,” said advocate Meenaz Kakalia, who represented the Worli fishing community, one of the respondents in the matter.
The BMC and the companies contracted for the work – Larsen & Toubro and Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) – filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the SC on Monday, seeking urgent hearing and made the Worli fishing community as the only respondent. “This was a defect pointed out by the SC registry and the BMC was asked to make all petitioners (in the HC) as respondents in this matter,” said Kakalia.
Connecting the western suburbs along the coast on reclaimed land, the 9.9-km road is proposed to be an eight-lane highway aimed at connecting Marine Drive to the southern end of the Bandra Worli Sea Link, and aims to reduce travel time between south Mumbai and the western suburbs by 70%.
Vijay Singhal, additional municipal commissioner, BMC, said the corporation is incurring high losses owing to the stay on construction.
“We had all required clearances in place as far as this project was concerned, and with this argument we approached the SC.”
“It is incredible that the BMC has no concern for the environment and is worried about economic losses of the project,” said Debi Goenka from Conservation Action Trust, respondent in the matter.
“The BMC said high-intensity rains and rough seas would wash away all the work back to the ocean when the tide subsides,” said Zaman Ali, the advocate representing respondent Vanashakti.
Environmentalists and now respondents in the matter said the SC’s order was a breather for the next 25 days. “Acts of reckless unwanted reclamation will alter the coastline of Mumbai, and damage the intertidal ecology, making the city vulnerable to sea level rise,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.