Report on Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project, 19/09/2020
Affidavit on behalf of Larsen & Toubro (L&T) Limited setting out the status of the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) project and environmental impact mitigation measures taken by L&T dated 19/09/2020. The MTHL and the approval of January 25, 2016 given by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 2011 are the subject matter of the appeal filed by Dileep B. Nevatia.
The report stated that because of restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, lack of adequate manpower and the monsoon season, the work on the project has not commenced in full force. The Bombay High Court on November 28, 2016 had passed an order permitting the company to carry out construction of the project. The project does not involve the destruction and reclamation of wetlands and does not violate the 2011 CRZ Notification. "The purpose of both the 2011 CRZ Notification and the 2006 EIA Notification is not to stall development, but to have a development while ensuring protection of the environment and to mitigate any damage caused to the environment," the report said.
As per clause 3 (iv) of the 2011 CRZ Notification the construction of a trans-harbour sea link in CRZ zones was permissible. Further, Clause 8 (i) provides that the development or construction activities in different categories of CRZ shall be regulated by the concerned Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA). In CRZ-I the construction of a trans harbour sea link and without affecting the tidal flow of water between the low tide line (LTL) and high tide line (HTL) is permitted.
Also, as far as construction in CRZ-IV is concerned, activities impugning on the sea and tidal influenced water bodies are to be "regulated in the manner mentioned therein" to be regulated. The Project falls in an area between LTL and HTL and hence the water body across which the project is being constructed is a tidal influenced water body. The affidavit argued that clauses in CRZ 2011 mentioned that no new construction would be permitted in CRZ-I, except construction of trans harbour sea link - which the MTHL project is.
CRZ Notification 2011 states that the activities impugning on the sea and tidal influenced water bodies would be regulated. Thus, it is clear - the the construction of the project in the CRZ-IV area is permissible and is subject to regulation. In fact, in order to regulate the construction of the project the MoEF&CC had stipulated certain conditions in the CRZ clearance.
The report said that all required measures are being taken to mitigate the impact on the environment. Thus, it is wrong to say that the project would impact mudflats, mangroves, national and marine parks and threaten the survival of endangered migratory birds.
A detailed Environmental Management Plan (EMP) has been submitted by the project proponent, which forms part of the Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment Report (Rapid EIA Report). The EMP sets out in detail the environmental management plan to mitigate the impact of the project on the environment and the cost estimates for these measures.
The General Consultant of the Project had sent a letter January 15, 2020 to the project proponent enclosing a checklist detailing compliance of conditions set out in the CRZ Clearance.
One of the condition was 'compensatory mangrove restoration'. The Chief Conservator of Forests (Mangrove Cell) had been entrusted with restoration of over 200 hectares. Payments of around Rs. 5.05 crores had been made by the project proponent to the Chief Conservator of Forests for these measures. The Mangrove Cell had completed plantation on 105 hectares in degraded land in various locations such as Palghar and Mumbai Suburban.
The report of Larsen & Toubro (L&T) Limited reiterated that the allegations that the MTHL project would negatively impact the flora and fauna was misconceived and that the project proponent had taken all requisite and necessary steps to ensure that the flora and fauna in and around the area where construction was being undertaken was not negatively impacted. All requirements as mandated by the MoEF&CC and Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) were being satisfied.
Note: The report of September 19, 2020 is in two parts - Part I and Part II (containing references and photographs).