The Bombay High Court recently allowed plea by the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), clearing way for the construction of a passenger jetty at Kelwa and a Ro-RO jetty at Kharwadashri in Palghar and another passenger jetty at Kharekuran in Thane, while holding that the projects are being undertaken without substantial destruction of mangroves and approvals granted by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
The HC asked MMB to provide within two weeks an undertaking that it will strictly comply with all terms and conditions set out in the approvals of the projects. Refusing to stay its order, it said that the Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG), an intervenor, has exceeded its role, as apart from assailing approvals given to the project, it attempted to suggest alternative sites to the petitioner.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni on Friday passed ruling in three pleas filed by MMB seeking approvals for the projects, which fall within the Coastal Zone Regulation-I (CRZ-I), in the vicinity of mangrove zone.
The MMB, through advocates Saket Mone and Subit Chakrabarti, said that as per a September, 2018 judgment of the HC in BEAG case, total freeze has been imposed on the destruction of mangroves in Maharashtra and to undertake any work in such zone, the agency required to approach the HC.
The MMB said that the passenger jetty at Kelwa, near fishermen’s jetty, which is a “pure public utility project” and does not require destruction of mangroves, would benefit people of Palghar district, providing additional and convenient eco-friendly travel option along the Boisar industrial area while also helping tourism activities in and around Kelwa beach.
It added that MMB is willing to comply with the conditions laid by MCZMA and SEIAA to begin construction. Senior advocate Sharan Jagtiani, appearing for BEAG, said that it is the state’s duty to undertake sustainable development. It added that the state can construct the jetty as an extension to the existing fishermen’s jetty.
Referring to CRZ Notification, 2011, the HC observed that activities related to waterfront are expressly permitted and setting up of a jetty is clearly not seen as a prohibited activity, but a regular activity. The MMB also said that for the Kharwadshri RO-RO jetty, MCZMA has granted permissions to divert 0.478 hectare of mangrove area – comprising of 72 trees – and MMB is willing to plant or replant five times the number of mangroves being removed. The HC allowed the same.
The MMB further said that for Kharekuran passenger jetty, there would be no destruction of mangroves and work should be allowed in view of approvals of the state environmental authorities, which the HC accepted.