Environmentalists term structure illegal, to challenge construction; board forms own panel to look into concerns
The site where the 10-foot-high, 14-feet-wide structure is being built at Aksa beach in Malad
The Maharashtra Maritime Board (MBB) has filed a caveat with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in order to build a sea wall at Aksa beach in Madh, Malad, even as environmentalists have finalised plans to challenge the structure, which they termed ‘anti-nature’ and ‘illegal’.
According to NGO NatConnect Foundation, MMB filed the caveat against environmental groups to “pray that no orders be passed without due notice to the caveator/proposed respondent in the original application which may be filed by the caveatees against the proposed construction of the sea wall”.
The NGO pointed out that this is the first time that MMB has used the expression ‘sea wall’, a structure that has been banned by the NGT. “Moreover, the wall’s status is not merely ‘proposed’, as stated in the caveat, but the structure is nearing completion,” said B N Kumar, director, NatConnect.
Environmentalist Zoru Bhathena said the MMB, in its initial proposal for the CRZ nod, stated that it planned to construct a gabion wall, which the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) rejected outright in its 115th meeting in January 2017.
“The authority felt that the beach may be eroded due to solid construction. Further, solid construction is not permissible as per the CRZ Notification, 2011. Subsequently, the board changed the expression to ‘parapet wall’ and later to ‘repairing an old bund’ and went ahead with the construction in the middle of the beach, an obvious CRZ1 area,” he alleged. Environmentalist B N Kumar claims the wall also violates a ruling by the NGT against such structures at beaches across states and Union Territories.
A special bench of the NGT, in its order dated April 11, 2022, took note of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) design of a hybrid solution for the first time in India with two reefs and sand nourishment for restoring the eroding beach along Puducherry. The tribunal also observed that a similar pattern could be applied to shore management plans of other beaches as well.
Meanwhile, under pressure from environmentalists, MMB has formed a committee to look into the concerns over the violation of CRZ norms. Dr H Kharkwal, the additional director and scientist at the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Control that was approached by NatConnect, directed Abhay Madhukar Pimparkar, member secretary, MCZMA, in an email, to check the complaint.
MMB, in its latest letter to MCZMA, following the ministry mail, described the Rs 4.95 crore project as part of anti-sea erosion measures and said the work received approval from the district planning commission. The letter claimed that MMB had received the MCZMA and State Environment Impact Assessment Authority nod.
Environmentalists, however, rejected outright the committee idea, stating that any inquiry should be held by an independent panel and not by the MMB. In their complaint to the Centre and the state government, they said the “monstrous” wall—10-foot high, 14-foot wide and running up to over 600 metres—was being erected in the middle of the beach in CRZ1.
According to a NatConnect member, Dr Kharkwal reminded Pimparkar that the ministry “delegates power to the State Coastal Zone Management Authority, under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, to take action against violation cases. It is requested that action applicable with the law may be taken if all aforesaid grievances are affirmative”. Kumar said, “We are consulting our legal teams.”
Cost of sea wall project in rupees