Mumbai Coastal Road: SC lifts stay

In a major relief to the state government and the BMC, the Supreme Court lifted the stay on reclamation of land for the coastal road project. The Bombay High Court on July 16 had quashed the coastal regulation zone clearances granted to the project, citing lack of a proper scientific study and lacuna in the decision-making process. In response, the BMC had petitioned to the SC, which had said it would hear the pleas after Diwali.

A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said, “We are of the considered opinion that the order of the Bombay High Court dated July 16 should be stayed till further orders”. The bench said the respondents, including the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can reclaim and secure the land meant for the road project but cannot develop it till further orders. The bench was hearing appeals filed by the MCGM and construction firms Larsen and Toubro Ltd and HCC HDC JV. The reclamation for the project was halted at Priyadarshani Park, Amarsons Garden, Haji Ali and Worli Seaface.

The 29.2-km coastal road project will cost the BMC Rs.15,000 crore and will connect the Marine Drive area in south Mumbai to the suburban Borivali in north Mumbai. In 2017, it got a go-ahead from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority, the Expert Appraisal Committee and the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state, said the HC had stayed the order due to want of environmental clearances. He said there is no space in Mumbai and this project was started to ease the traffic situation. Appearing for the BMC, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi argued that they had CRZ clearances but did not have the environmental clearances as it was not a national highway.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners (activists and citizens opposing the road project) before the High Court, opposed the state government and said it is a serious matter and the court should fix it for final hearing after the winter vacation. “We have to protect the coastal areas of the country. Its degradation cannot be allowed. They have been reclaiming land and pouring concrete into the ocean. This court had earlier even refused to grant interim stay of the judgement of the high court,” he said. Gonsalves said that heavy machines were removed from the site after the HC order but they will return and start work if the court grants interim stay. The Supreme Court bench, however, said it would stay the HC verdict and hear the matter in the month of March.

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