The Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) has been instructed to submit documents pertaining to environmental clearances for the work after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) took cognizance of complaints from environmentalists regarding the alleged “anti-nature” sea wall at Aksa beach in Madh, Malad.
Environmentalists claimed that the MMB’s sea wall project, dubbed “seafront development and beautification,” violated CRZ regulations. B N Kumar, the director of the NatConnect Foundation, and the activist Zoru Bathena submitted an application to the NGT’s Western Bench requesting the cancellation of the permits issued for the construction of the sea wall in the ecologically sensitive area.
In the arguments on behalf of the applicants, attorney Ronita Bhattacharya produced records from the Maharashtra Coastal Regulation Authority (MCZMA), stressing that the MCZMA had expressly forbidden any construction in the CRZ1 area. Applications for “seafront development and beautification” made by the MMB were in clear violation of these rules. The applicants have been unable in obtaining the alleged CRZ clearance documents from the State Environment Department despite numerous attempts and requests under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The photographic evidence provided by the attorney depicting a road on the beach and a wall has been scrutinised by the NGT bench, which is made up of Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh and expert member Dr. Vijay Kulkarni. In contrast to the MMB’s assertion that the wall was necessary to stop beach erosion in its submission to the MCZMA, the MCZMA stated that sea walls and bunds are often seen as “antithetical to the preservation of beaches and protection against flooding.” According to MCZMA minutes, the MCZMA also believed that the beach may disintegrate as a result of the solid development there.
She also claimed that despite this, the MMB went ahead and finished building a 600-meter, 4-meter-high wall that divided the lovely beach in half. She requested the revocation of all permits.
Prior to the NGT, the MMB had submitted an exception asking the bench not to make any decisions regarding the issue without consulting the board. On July 3, the bench will consider the admission case.
It is said that despite repeated demands, NatConnect was not given access to the MMB’s so-called CRZ nod or the Environment Impact Assessment it conducted as a preliminary to the sea wall. These documents were also not in the public domain. According to the applicant’s attorney, the MCZMA noted a clearance from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and granted a conditional okay for the beach work, barring any development in the CRZ.