Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has permitted the BMC to carry out a project to increase potable water supply in areas in and around Gorai village, observing that the court has to “strike a balance” between development for public interest and environment protection.
The BMC’s petition had been vehemently opposed by an Ngo that contended that the project is proposed in a buffer zone of mangroves.
Striking balance between development & environment protection
Granting permission on Friday, a division bench of Justices RD Dhanuka and Milind Sathaye observed, “When the issue of development for public good/ interest is pitched against restrictions put in place for environment protection, the court has to strike a balance.”
The HC was hearing a petition filed by the BMC seeking directions to the authorities concerned to grant permission to execute a proposed suction tank to provide adequate water supply. The civic body proposed developing a project site of about 40 sqmt near the fish market in Gorai village on government owned land. The site is partly affected by a 50mt mangrove buffer zone area as per the Coastal Regulations Zone (CRZ) norms.
BMC cites rising population of Gorai
The civic body contended that Gorai is a tourist destination and its population has increased many times over but doesn’t have adequate water supply. The BMC further contended that high elevation along Uttan Road aggravates the acute watershortage as transportation is difficult on inclines.
The BMC therefore proposed the project “to augment water supply for improving the living conditions and hygiene of residents”. It said that “no mangrove destruction is contemplated” as part of the project.
However, it approached the HC seeking permission as per its earlier directions in 2018, wherein it was mandated to take court clearance for projects within the buffer zone of 50mt around the mangroves. The 2018 order was passed on a plea by Bombay Environment Action Group (BEAG) seeking protection of the mangroves.
Necessary NOCs obtained
Considering the “importance and necessity” of the project, the Tahsildar, Mumbai Suburban District, granted a portion of government-owned land on August 2, 2019, along with the NOC, subject to necessary approval from the HC.
Even the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) and State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) have cleared the proposal, subject to the condition that the BMC “ensures that mangroves, if any, should not be cut/ affected”. BEAG, however, vehemently opposed the petition saying that the project is proposed in a buffer zone of mangroves.
The HC rejected the request by the BEAG to stay the order and allowed the BMC to go ahead with the project saying that “sufficient safeguards have been provided by MCZMA and SIEAA”. The court also noted that “no destruction of mangroves is involved as the said project is only partly affected by buffer zone”.
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