Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, August 03 2017
Fishermen, citizen groups and environmentalists have filed an application in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) opposing the construction of Versova-Bandra Sea Link (VBSL). The case will come up for hearing on Friday. They said construction will destroy mangroves and mudflats along the coastline and rather than reducing traffic issues, it will cause more bottlenecks at different parts of the city.
The Rs7,500-crore project is part of the proposed coastal road linking Nariman Point to the northern suburbs. The road, an extension to the existing 5.6-km Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL), will have a 9.89-km-long roadway above the sea, 900 metres away from the shore, with dispersal points at Otter’s Club, Bandra, and Juhu Koliwada. It will also have connectors to Bandra-Worli Sea Link and Nana-Nani Park at Versova. In January 2013, Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) secured Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances for the project and in February, the project got environment clearance from the state environment department. MSRDC intends to complete the project by 2020.
The application was filed against several bodies including the Union environment ministry, Maharashtra government, MSRDC and other state bodies.
Fishermen, represented by the Juhu Moragaon Machhimar Vividh Karyakari Sahkari Sanstha and Juhu Tara Koli Jamat, have said the livelihood of 700 families in Khar danda, Juhu and Versova will be affected by the project.
“We mainly want the environment clearances to be quashed and set aside, not only because of procedural irregularities but also since public consultation process for the fishing community and citizens was bypassed,” said Zaman Ali, counsel representing the applicants. “Even basic surveys were done without consulting with the fishing community, which bases its livelihood on the area.”
The fishing community, who are joined by the environment group Vanashakti and the Bandra West Residents’ Association (BWRA), said the government agencies did not consult the public before granting environment clearances to the project. As a part of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared by MSRDC, a public consultation with local residents and fishing community was held in 2011, that said, “The preferred alignment has no objection by NGOs and local people as there is least impact on environment.”
But the project’s opponents said the hearings were not adequate. “It does not make any sense to have a public hearing with only seven odd residents and more MSRDC officials, five years before people are aware about the environmental effects of such a project,” said Darryl D’monte, president, BWRA.
According to the state mangrove cell, 33.17 hectare (ha) – almost three-and-half times the size of Oval Maidan (9 ha) in south Mumbai — of reserved mangrove forests will be lost at the northern portion of the Coastal Road project. D’monte added that two Metro lines – Metro III (Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ) and Metro VII (Dahisar and Andheri) along the Western Express Highway – are alternatives for the Coastal Road project. “There is no point of another road that will lead to large-scale environmental destruction, especially mangroves. We have been protesting this for five years and all objections have fallen on deaf ears. This prompted us to approach the green tribunal,” he said.
“Due diligence was done for VBSL by our contractors and a detailed list of mitigation measures to the State Environment Impact Assessment Committee under the state environment department was submitted. Only then did we get clearances. We will respond accordingly at NGT,” said a senior official from MSRDC.