Mumbai: Bombay HC allows BMC to upgrade infrastructure at Irla Nullah to 'save environment'

Observing that it won't interfere in the methods being used by the BMC to upgrade the infrastructure and install heavy duty back rakes at the Irla Nullah pumping station at suburban Andheri, the Bombay High Court allowed the civic body to proceed with the project, which it said is meant for public interest.

The HC however, clarified that the civic body can proceed with the works only after getting permissions from various authorities including the Mangroves cell.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni was seized with a plea filed by the BMC seeking permission to carry out the upgradation work of design, fabrication, installation and commissioning of heavy duty back rake type mechanical screening for Irla Nullah at Irla storm water pumping station in Andheri.

As per the civic body, this project is being undertaken to remove huge quantity of floating material discharged into sea, which would otherwise adversely affect environment and more particularly the aquatic condition of the sea.

The civic body claimed that the floating materials in the Irla Nullah adversely affect the smooth operation of the flood gates and of the pumping station. "If the installation of the back rakes are undertaken, the trash would be arrested and removed from the drain structure and the drainage!(Nullah)," the civic body claimed.

The BMC further pointed out that it had applied for mandatory permissions from the MCZMA in June 2020, which referred the matter to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). The plea before the SEIAA is yet to be decided.

The civic body had petitioned the bench led by CJ Datta since the work that it seeks to carry out falls within 50 meters of Mangroves buffer zone. It pointed out that an application has been made even before the Mangroves Cell, which is yet to decide it.

Having considered the contentions, the judges said, "It is quite clear to us that per se there is no destruction of the mangroves by the BMC in carrying out the project. The mangroves however, being in the vicinity of 50meters, the civic body hence has approached this Court."
"It is also not in dispute that the work in question is a public work and is of considerable importance, and if executed it would safeguard and protect the environment," the judges noted.

The bench, however, refused to accept the contention of Bombay Environment Action Group (BEAG) which said that the civic body can have alternative or better methods to execute the work.
"The BMC with its technical expertise has planned the project which is being implemented in public interest. In our opinion, methods to implement the project are required to be left to the wisdom of the BMC," the judges said while granting permission to the civic body to proceed with the work.

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