The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has decided to scrutinise all documents pertaining to the Aksa beach seawall following a complaint from environmentalists that the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) has violated the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.
In their application before the NGT’s western zonal bench, NGO NatConnect Foundation’s director BN Kumar and environmentalist Zoru Bhathena have contended that MMB has not complied with the conditions imposed by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) by going ahead with a 600mt-long and 4mt-wide wall in the middle of the beach.
Wall on beach violates NGT order
Responding to applications in different formats, MCZMA had clearly stated each time that there should be no construction on CRZ1 area, the application alleged. Though MCZMA relied on the CRZ nod by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), the latter’s documents were not available in public domain, nor has the environment department supplied them despite applications filed by NatConnect under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the NGT was told.
Arguing for the applicants, advocate Ronita Bhattacharya said on Friday that the seawall violated the NGT’s special bench order banning such structures on beaches across the country. The six-member special bench headed by NGT chairman Adarsh Kumar Goel had in April 2022 ruled in the Puducherry beach that alternative suggestions should be considered for checking beach erosion rather than the walls that obstruct flow of intertidal water and cause floods elsewhere. The special bench had taken note of a plan by the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) for a hybrid idea with beach nourishment and reefs. At one stage, during the nearly hour-long arguments, the west zone tribunal looked at the photographs produced by Bhattacharya and wondered as to how one can have such a wall that looks like a road on which one can drive.
NGT assures appropriate action
The NGT order, uploaded on Tuesday, said the Tribunal will order “appropriate action” after going through the terms and conditions of the CRZ clearance to ascertain if any violations were made as alleged by the applicants’ counsel.
Bhattacharya pointed out that the applicants had also approached the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Control (MOEFCC) against the violations. The MOEFCC, on its part, directed MCZMA to examine the allegations and report while reminding that the Centre had vested all powers with the state authority to deal with such issues.
No response to RTI
Promptly responding to NatConnect’s complaint, the Chief Minister has also directed the environment department to check the grouse. The NGO subsequently filed an application through the RTI route for information on the action taken. Yet there was no response. There was also no response to Kumar’s RTI application to the department for the minutes of the SEIAA meeting that was supposed to have given the CRZ permission for the seawall, Bhattacharya said.
MMB lawyer Saket Mone, however, mentioned that his client had all the necessary approvals and the NGT west zonal bench – comprising Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh, judicial member, and Dr Vijay Kulkarni, expert member – has directed him to produce all documents at the next hearing fixed for July 3.
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