Consider separate coastal norms: HC

Bombay High Court in a recent order has asked MoEF to consider framing separate coastal regulations for Mumbai, different from other coastal areas. The court's observations may have far-reaching implications on the conflict between ecological concerns and development needs in the country's commercial capital.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Anoop Mohta said, "For regulating the development of Mumbai... the Ministry of Environment and Forest may consider appropriate regulatory measures which need not necessarily be the regulatory measures applicable to the other coastal areas." The court has opined that it would "be in the fitness of things" if the state government takes up this matter with the Centre.

Expressing concern over the possible effect of the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) regulations, 2011, on Mumbai, the judges observed, "While there can be no two opinions about the need to preserve ecology, one cannot overlook the fact that Mumbai, the commercial capital of the country, is an island city, already having thousands of structures within 500 m and 1,000 m of the coast for several decades, even before the coming into force of the CRZ regulations."

The court's suggestion came in response to a petition filed by one Nahur Vivekanand Co-operative Housing Society Ltd, which has demanded that the BMC should consider their application for a commencement certificate (CC) for redevelopment without insisting on environmental clearance from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).

According to the society, a Union government notification of 2006 has laid down that such clearance is needed only if the construction is more than 20,000 metres.

The total built-up area to be constructed by it is said to be 14,809.8 square metres. Accepting the society's contentions, the court has now asked the BMC to consider their application.

The court also noted that it has observed in several cases where projects have to wait for long periods to get environmental clearances from state-level environmental bodies, even on lands which already have had residential buildings for decades. Referring to this, the order read, "Non-appreciation of the above important aspects has been only retarding the growth of infrastructure as well as residential and commercial buildings in Mumbai."

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