After stay on port, Dahanu authority review sought

Priyanka Kakodkar, Times News Network, June 14 2017

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week after the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA) stayed work on the Rs 30,000 crore Vadhavan port project, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change has written to the state urban development department, asking it to assess the body’s functioning.

The letter asks for an assessment of DTEPA’s role in the current scenario and alternative mechanisms available with the state government.

The ministry’s letter of June 8 stated that there had been many changes after DTEPA’s formation. “Considering that in the last 25 years many new monitoring and enforcement mechanisms have come in place, it would be worthwhile to carry out an assessment of DTEPA’s working,” the letter said.

Critics said this was an attempt to undermine the DTEPA. “The Government of India has been trying to scrap DTEPA for a number of years. This is a fresh attempt to undermine its authority,” said Debi Goenka from the Conservation Action Trust. “It’s significant that this letter comes a week after DTEPA’s directive on the Vadhavan port,” he added.

The ministry asked the urban development department to assess the amount of work before DTEPA. It also sought a report within eight weeks.

Dahanu taluka, 140 km from Mumbai, is an eco-sensitive zone. The DTEPA, headed by retired high court judge C S Dharmadhikari, was set up in 1996 to protect the ecologically fragile area.

DTEPA had on May 30 directed that no work must take place on the port without its permission. It objected to being bypassed for permission by the government. In 1998, it had refused permission to the port project.
JNPT’s Vadhavan port will require reclamation of 5,000 acres. The Maharashtra government has also written to the ministry to exclude the port from Dahanu’s eco-sensitive zone as it is a foreshore facility.
“The Union environment minister had clarified that removing the eco-sensitive tag in Dahanu will require the Supreme Court’s intervention,” said Narayan Patil of the Vadhavan Bunder Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti. “The government wants to scrap DTEPA as it is resisting projects in Dahanu to preserve its ecology,” he said.

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