NGO Shares Aerial Images with the Supreme Court Showing BMC’s Illegal Land Reclamation

NGO Shares Aerial Images with the Supreme Court Showing BMC’s Illegal Land Reclamation

Conservation Action Trust (CAT), a Non-Governmental Organisation or NGO, filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court claiming that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has taken more land than it was supposed to as part of land reclamation for an upcoming road project. The project in question is the Coastal Road Project, which is one of the pet projects of the current government. 

This, the NGO believes, has damaged Mumbai’s coastline and is in direct violation of the Supreme Court orders, referring to a December 2019 order by the top court that allowed the reclamation of the land but put a hold on the civic body undertaking other works. The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on Wednesday to discuss this matter further. 

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The petitioners also attached aerial photographs taken from the site to show the scale of the illegal reclamation. “BMC had assured the SC that it would only commence reclamation after clearances under the Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA), which it does not have at the moment. Secondly, the CRZ clearance stipulated that no work could commence without wildlife clearance due to the presence of corals [protected under the WLPA) and other marine biodiversity,” Debi Goenka, Executive Trustee at CAT said. 

The BMC, however, has dismissed these claims. Its Chief Engineer for Coastal Road Projects, Niranjan Khanolkar said that the civic body has only reclaimed 52 hectares of the 90 hectares land that has been categorized under CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone).  

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“While we have requested the SC [Supreme Court] and the Centre for approval to reclaim an additional 21 ha, it will only commence once we complete the first 90 ha followed by permissions from the Union environment ministry,” Khanolkar said.

In its 2019 order, the Supreme Court had said - “The petitioners (BMC) are free to reclaim the land, build the road thereon, and secure the road. They shall however not carry out any other development work until further orders of this court.”

It’s worth pointing out that the state forest department has put a hold on BMC’s clearances as it seeks additional clarification from the civic body. DR Patil, Divisional Forest Officer (Mangrove Cell) at the BMC said that this process could be lengthy as it could take them at least a week to go through the materials and come up with a viable recommendation. 

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