Verify allegations of violations at Juhu for new sea link: Maharashtra coastal authority to MSRDC, Mumbai suburban collector
Maharashtra’s coastal authority has directed state bodies to that ensure environmental laws are not violated for the construction of a permanent access road across Juhu beach for the Versova-Bandra Sea Link (VBSL).
Citing environmentalist Zoru Bhathena’s complaint, in which he has claimed violation of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) laws for the constructions of the access road, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) on Friday issued directions to the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation Ltd (MSRDC) and the suburban district collector to verify, take appropriate action and send a factual, detailed action taken report at the earliest on the allegations.
“Treat this as an important complaint,” read the letter.
“We have asked them to check for any violations of CRZ norms 1991 and 2011, and the Bombay high court orders from 2005, 2010 and 2018 (for protection of mangroves and intertidal areas) as the site is CRZ-1 where no construction activity is allowed,” said a senior MCZMA official.
According to Bhathena’s complaint, the permanent access road across Juhu koliwada was being constructed to give access to the construction zones falling within the intertidal areas.
“However, this road is being built by excavating the beach sand and filling up this excavated area with stones and also through the intertidal zone (area between high tide and low tide) or CRZ-1 areas. This is a prohibited activity,” the complaint read, adding that the CRZ clearance issued by the Union environment ministry on January 9, 2013, expressly clarified, “There shall be no dredging and reclamation for the project.”
The complaint filed before the environment department, MCZMA and various state bodies called for an immediate action to stop the work, failing which the environmentalist said the matter would be taken to court.
“There is absolutely no need to reclaim the beach to build a bridge on stilts. I am glad that MCZMA has taken cognisance of my complaint, and hope MSRDC will stop this illegal construction and restore Juhu Beach and its intertidal areas to its natural condition,” said Bhathena.
MSRDC officials refused to comment. “We will comply with directives, if any, but no such instructions have been received by us yet,” said an MSRDC official.
About the project
In May 2019, the Supreme Court (SC) had dismissed MSRDC’s petition to set up a casting yard for the VBSL project at Juhu beach on the grounds that it would have a negative impact on the beach. MCZMA in February 2019 had approved the construction of the casting yard, but Bhathena had challenged the decision before the HC, which revoked MCZMA’s permission citing violations of CRZ laws. MSRDC had then moved the SC.
The VBSL project is a 9.6km-long bridge (four-plus-four land) proposed to be constructed off 900 metres away from the coast. The sea link will have three connectors – one at Otter’s Club, Bandra; second at Juhu Koliwada and the third at Nana Nani Park at Versova —which would take the total length of the sea link to 17.17km.
According to MSRDC, the total project cost is Rs11,332.82 crore, while the cost of construction is Rs6,993.99 crore. It aims to be a part of the coastal road project that will link Nariman Point and the northern suburbs. The proposed sea link will begin from the Bandra-end of the 5.6km Bandra-Worli Sea Link.
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