Versova sea link: Nod to cut mangroves in Mumbai under high court lens
The Bombay high court (HC) on Friday directed the ministry of environment and forests and climate change (MoEFCC) to explain the two permissions granted to the Bandra-Versova sea link. A division bench of chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice Bharati Dangre also restrained the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) from cutting any mangroves, except from the 200 square meters area required to construct 10 pillars for this section of the sea link.
The HC was hearing a plea filed by activist Zoru Bhathena, opposing the MSRDC’s plea seeking the court’s permission to cut 1,585 mangroves for the construction of the Bandra-Versova sea link. Bhathena argued that there are discrepancies in the various permissions granted to the project, which make it difficult to gauge the exact area of mangrove forest that may be affected. He also contended that the discrepancies showed arbitrariness in the way the proposals were decided.
A coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance, dated January 9, 2013, states that there will be permanent loss of mangroves on 150 square meters (sqm) and temporary loss on 50sqm whereas the permission granted on December 20, 2018, under provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, talk of diverting 2,997 hectares – about 30,000sqm of mangrove forest land – to MSRDC for the project and permitting the cutting of 1,585 mangroves.
After noticing discrepancies in two permissions granted by MoEFCC, the bench said there can’t be 1,585 mangrove trees on 200 square meters of land. “It belies common sense,” said the bench. The court also expressed displeasure at how the permissions were granted. “The manner in which the bureaucrats conduct themselves is the real matter of concern,” said the bench. The MoEFCC has been asked to explain the permissions granted to the Bandra-Versova sea link. The next hearing of the case will be - after four weeks.
Discarding objections raised by Bhathena and others on February 8, 2019, another HC bench had granted MSRDC permission to cut 1,585 mangrove trees noting that the Bandra-Versova sea link was of vital importance to the city. The permissions were subject to a condition that 13,332 mangrove trees be planted at Charkop as compensation. Bhathena had then moved the Supreme Court, which remanded the matter back to the HC for fresh consideration.
Bandra-Versova sea link will connect to the Bandra-Worli sea link and have three connectors at Bandra, Juhu Koliwada and Versova. It is an integral part of the larger coastal road project of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, and has been proposed to ease traffic congestion on SV Road and western express highway.