The Bombay High Court, on July 16, 2019, quashed the coastal regulations zone clearances granted to Mumbai’s civic body and ordered construction on the proposed $1.7 billion (about Rs 12,000 crore) Mumbai Coastal Road project to stop. More in News

  • The project is one of the most expensive infrastructures development projects, stretching 35.6 kilometres and connecting the entire western coast of Mumbai.
  • The project aims to create 90 hectares of land by reclaiming the inter-tidal western coast of the city’s shoreline.
  • But citizens’ groups and environmentalists have raised concerns that the project will destroy the region’s unique ecology and the livelihoods of traditional communities who depend on the inter-tidal zone for fishing.
Major allegations against coastal regulations clearances The project has been surrounded by controversies ever since the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) gave environmental clearance in 2017. The ministry submitted ambiguous reasons to give the clearance.
  • First, MoEF&CC said the proposed project would reduce commuting time by 70 per cent and save 34 per cent fuel per day. It would also reduce the carbon footprint by 1,826 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per annum.
    • But it was alleged that the vehicles plying on Mumbai’s roads mainly consume non-renewable fossil fuels, and are a major contributor to greenhouse gases, especially CO2. The government could have easily explored rail connectivity, but it chose to back the contractors building this project.
      • It is important to note that 43 per cent of Mumbai’s residents uses the rail network. So, the proposed road will only cater to a small demographic of private vehicle owners.
    • Second, MoEF&CC claimed the project would not have any adverse impact on tidal behaviour.
      • But scientists say the dumping of rocks on the inter-tidal space would increase daily high tides by up to 1.5 metres, which would be detrimental to the survival of local fisherfolk. The court mentioned this while hearing the petitions.
    • Third, MoEF&CC said the project would be carried out strictly, in accordance with the provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1972, and would render the coastal ecology of the area, including flora and fauna, in its original state after completion.
      • But it is alleged that damage to all inter-tidal fauna and flora would be permanent where tidal waters will be blocked for reclamation of land. It cannot be replenished.
      • There are no known methods to restore permanently destroyed inter-tidal habitats or shores and bring the marine life back to its original state.
    • The construction of this road will decimate Mumbai’s heritage ecosystem.
      • Several studies have identified the presence of the Deccan Plateau on which most of Mumbai’s rocky shores today stand. The Deccan Plateau has been traced to the Mesozoic times — 60 to 68 million years ago — and this is the natural heritage of Mumbai’s rocky shore. This may be affected by the construction of road
      • About 340 documented inter-tidal marine life species have been identified. Species like sea cucumbers, gorgonians and corals, which receive protection under the Schedule I species of the Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972, are found here. The construction of this road will decimate this heritage ecosystem.
    • Impact  of coastal regulations clearances on indigenous coastal Koli communities
      • The city’s indigenous coastal communities, known as the Kolis, are completely dependent on artisanal fishing within the shallows of this rich, biodiverse rocky shore. There are about 2,000 fishing families living in Worli alone, who travel up to two km into the sea to catch fish.
      • The government has said it would give monetary compensation, but the families have rejected this offer on the grounds of “intergenerational sustainability of the shore”.
Conclusion There is a need to comprehend what kind of sustainable transport system Mumbai needs before building an expensive coastal road, thereby permanently changing the identity of this unique ecological ecosystem. We need to review the coastal regulations provided. Also read: SC orders release on bail of a journalist arrested in U.P. Article 19: Different Aspects of Freedom of Speech and Expression Source