9 Feb 2023 9:58 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court recently allowed felling of mangrove trees within the construction zone of the Vadodara Mumbai expressway observing that the proposed expressway will benefit large sections of the population.A division bench of acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep V Marne held –“Its (Bharatmala Pariyojana) an ambitious and mammoth project of Government of India,...
The Bombay High Court recently allowed felling of mangrove trees within the construction zone of the Vadodara Mumbai expressway observing that the proposed expressway will benefit large sections of the population.
A division bench of acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep V Marne held –
“Its (Bharatmala Pariyojana) an ambitious and mammoth project of Government of India, of which Delhi-Mumbai express way is a part. Vadodara-Mumbai greenfield expressway which forms part of Delhi-Mumbai expressway corridor will benefit large sections of population in Maharashtra, Gujrat and Union Territory of Daman, Dadra & Nagar Haveli. Execution of project Considering the importance of the project proposed to be undertaken by Petitioner, we deem it appropriate to grant permission as sought for in the Petition.”
The National Highways Authority of India sought permission to execute the Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway Phase II. Some portion of the project comes within Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).
The project has received environmental and CRZ clearance from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA). The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) also granted clearance for the project. NHAI also obtained various other permissions from the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA) and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).
In 2018, the Bombay High Court, in the PIL Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) v. State of Maharashtra, imposed a total freeze on the cutting of mangroves in the state, prohibited issuance of development permission by any authority on any mangroves area and stopped all construction within 50 metres of all sides of all mangroves areas. The court further said the statutory bodies can permission from authorities for projects in mangrove areas but the permission would be subject to approval of the court. Hence the present petition.
Originally, the petition was for permission to fell 1001 mangrove trees. On January 19, 2023 NHAI in an affidavit informed the court that only 350 mangrove trees are required to be felled for the entire project.
The BEAG expressed apprehension about the proposal to cut large number of mangrove trees and requested the court not to grant permission for felling mangrove trees or diversion of mangrove forest area. It also submitted that the development project is impermissible in the area falling within CRZ-1A Zone (mangrove areas). The court said that this argument has already been rejected in Maharashtra Maritime board v. Union of India.
The court noted that NHAI has acquired permission from all authorities subject to stringent conditions. For example, the ministry of environment has required compensatory afforestation and to develop a separate nursery to raise at least 1 lakh seedlings of forest species.
“Various authorities have already imposed strict conditions on NHAI including that of afforestation while granting their respective permissions. NHAI will have to strictly comply those conditions. This will ensure adherence to the principle of sustainable development”, the court observed.
While Apex Court has stayed the directions in Maharashtra Maritime Board case, mere grant of stay cannot be reason to keep the present petition pending for a long time, the court said.
“After considering the provisions of CRZ Notification, we are convinced that development of roads and bridges is a permissible activity and in any case not a prohibited activity”, the court added.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh appeared for NHAI which Advocate Rohan Kelkar appeared for BEAG.
Additional Government Pleader MM Pabale appeared for State of Maharashtra, Advocate Rui Rodrigues appeared for Union of India, and Advocate Jaya Bagwe appeared for MCZMA.
Case no. – Writ Petition No. 9368 of 2021
Case Title – National Highways Authority of India v. State of Maharashtra and Ors.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Bom) 80
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment