Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has highlighted the necessity of modernising docks to address the pollution caused by solid waste accumulation at Sassoon docks in Colaba due to fishing activities.
The HC has instructed the Government of India, Mumbai Port Trust (MPT), Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to submit affidavits detailing the steps being taken in this regard.
Shortage of funds
The division bench, comprised of Chief Justice DK Upadhayaya and Justice Arif Doctor, issued this directive after learning that dock modernisation had stalled due to various reasons, including a shortage of funds that were to be provided by the Centre.
Directing the Centre to file an affidavit, the HC stated: "... modernization of the dock will be essential for removing the pollution created by solid waste which accumulates every day."
The HC was responding to a PIL by Colaba residents, who argued that the roads from Sassoon Docks to the Mumbai Port Trust Garden are used for fish cleaning and processing, particularly prawn peeling, resulting in an unsanitary environment.
Letter to GoI
The MPT's chairman wrote a letter on March 4 to the Government of India, Ministry of Ports Shipping and Water, requesting the resolution of issues related to the revised cost estimate for port modernisation in Colaba.
The Maharashtra Fisheries Development Corporation filed an affidavit indicating that modernisation work had come to a halt due to various issues.
Following an earlier HC order, MPCB officers conducted a site visit and submitted a report stating that the area was "clean." Chief Justice quipped in response, "... and the reason is that fishing activities were closed."
Additionally, a meeting was held in July involving MPCB officials and other authorities, but no visible solution was suggested during the meeting, as noted by the court.
The court emphasised that the responsibility of ensuring proper waste disposal, following the Solid Waste Management Rules, rested jointly with the MPT, BMC, and MPCB.
MPCB and BMC concerned cannot shirk away from their duties: Court
The court's order highlighted that the MPT had expressed concerns about potential law and order issues if strict action were taken against fishing activity. The court noted, "The counsel for Mumbai Port Trust has drawn our attention to the unique angle of the situation by saying that pollution on docks is caused on account of fishing activity in which lower-income fishermen are involved."
The judges stated that if that were the case, "the MPCB and BMC concerned cannot shirk away from their duties."
The court also inquired whether there were any fishermen's associations that could be added as respondents to find a viable solution to the problem.
Finally, the court directed the authorities to adhere to its instructions and take measures to dispose of waste generated from fishing activity in accordance with the Rules.