Coastal Road Update: SC lifts status quo order, allows work to continue sans reclamation
The Supreme Court on Monday granted partial relief to the BMC by lifting the status quo order and allowing work to continue on its ambitious Coastal Road Project, albeit without reclaiming any further land.
The bench also stated that while the contractor was free to carry out construction work, it would be at their own risk as the final outcome would only be decided after it has heard all petitions (challenging the project) placed before it in June.
The apex court was hearing a special petition filed by the BMC on April 26 to lift the stay on the Rs 12,000 crore project, which had been stalled following an order by the Bombay High Court.
“Mumbai Coastal Road (south) project was the only solution to the ever-increasing traffic congestion in the city of Mumbai and the inadequacy of the infrastructure to deal with the traffic woes of the citizens,” the special leave petition filed by the BMC read.
It added that the necessary permissions were given after due diligence and unless work was allowed to proceed, the state exchequer would loose Rs 10 crore per day.
Since it was not in public interest to stall the work any longer, it sought immediate relief in the form of overturning the HC order and resuming work.
On April 16, Bombay High Court stayed the reclamation and construction work for the Coastal Road Project till June 3 after hearing several petitions challenging the project on the ground of environmental impact and clearances.
A week prior, a bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice N M Jamdar had suggested that a status-quo be maintained, and BMC lawyer had assured that no further work will be carried out.
However, during the hearing on April 16, it was brought to its notice that with each passing day further damage was being caused to the marine life and livelihood of fisher-folk living along the coast due to the ongoing reclamation and dumping of debris.
While the BMC denied this and urged the court not to stay the work, the bench passed an interim direction, asking the civic body not to carry out further reclamation or cause more damage to the coastline until orders.
Damage to the biodiversity would cause irreversible problems for society, the high court had said.
The court also asked why the BMC did not seek objections from the public before starting the work, and why the project was treated as an exceptional case and exempted from certain environment norms regarding reclamation.
The high court was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by an NGO, a group of residents and fisher-folk, challenging proposed felling of trees and the ongoing reclamation for the project.
Senior advocates Janak Dwarkadas and Gayatri Singh, the petitioners’ lawyers, alleged that the BMC had not obtained the requisite environmental clearance (EC) from the Centre.
Senior advocate Shrihari Aney, appearing for the BMC, argued that an EC was obtained for the northern part of the project, while it was not required for the southern end.
The road proposes to link Marine Drive in South Mumbai to Borivali in North Mumbai, one of the busiest and most traffic-prone routes in the city.