A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Kulkarni’s October 29 verdict came on three petitions by Maharashtra Maritime Board to set up a passenger jetty and allied facilities at Kelwa and Kharekuran in Palghar and a Ro-Ro jetty at Kharwadashri in Thane.
The Board sought HC’s permission in view of a September 2018 order imposing a freeze on destruction of mangroves and mandating its permission for any work in such zone. The proposed works fall in CRZ-I near mangroves zone. The petition said the passenger jetty at Kelwa will benefit residents of Palghar district and provide convenient and eco-friendly travel option for people staying in the areas near Boisar Industrial Area. It will also boost tourism in and around Kelwa beach in Maharashtra’s largest fishing zone which also has temples and forts.
The judges disagreed with senior advocate Sharan Jagtiani for Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) that merely because construction of jetty falls in a buffer zone of 50 metres along mangrove area it would amount to a prohibited activity. They agreed with the Board’s advocate Saket Mone that construction of a jetty is a permissible activity under CRZ 2011 notification that permits activities directly related to waterfront or needing foreshore facilities. The judges said the notification’s object is not merely protecting the environment but also, while doing so, promoting sustainable development. “Thus, CRZ-I cannot be interpreted to mean a zone which freezes every activity,” Justice Kulkarni wrote for the bench, adding that such reading of the notification would render nugatory activities specifically permitted in CRZ-I.
Mone said there would be no destruction of mangroves and this is also noted by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority and State Environment Impact Assessment Authority. At Kharwadshri, some 72 mangrove trees are required to be diverted and MCZMA has directed to replant five times the number if destroyed.
The judges referred to HC orders allowing jetties at places like Borivli and Gorai, Ghodbunder, Belapur and Manori having considered the importance of the public project. The judges said the Board is also entitled to the exception carved in HC’s 2018 order “where the court finds it necessary for public good and in public interest.”
They upheld permissions by MCZMA and SEIAA, and allowed the Board to “proceed with its public utility project.