MMB asked to submit documents related to construction of a seawall at Aksa Beach

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has recently issued a directive to the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), demanding the submission of crucial documents related to the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance claimed by the board for the construction of a seawall at Aksa Beach in Madh. The NGT’s order comes in response to objections raised by environmentalists, who argue that the project violates CRZ norms. The applicants have also called for the formation of an expert committee to assess the environmental impact of the seawall.

Objections to Violation of CRZ Norms

NatConnect Foundation director BN Kumar and activist Zoru Bathena have filed an application with the NGT, raising objections to the construction of a seawall at Aksa Beach. The Tribunal’s Western Bench in Pune has taken up the case and noted the concerns of the applicants regarding the placement of the seawall in the middle of the beach, which is in violation of CRZ norms.

CRZ Clearance Documents in Question

Advocate Ronita Bhattacharya, representing the applicants, has cited minutes from the Maharashtra Coastal Regulation Authority (MCZMA), highlighting that the MCZMA had clearly prohibited any construction in the CRZ1 area. The MMB’s applications for “seafront development and beautification” were in direct contradiction to these regulations. Despite repeated efforts and applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the applicants have been unable to obtain the purported CRZ clearance documents from the State Environment Department.

Lack of Response and Hidden Reports

The applicants’ complaint prompted the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Control (MOEFCC) to request an investigation by the State Environment Department. However, no response has been received thus far. Furthermore, the MMB informed the government that an internal committee had been formed to ensure compliance with the seawall project, but the resulting report was not shared with the complainants, raising concerns about transparency and accountability.

NGT’s Demand for Documentation

In response to the case, the NGT bench, consisting of Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh and Dr. Vijay Kulkarni, has directed the MMB’s lawyer, Saket Mone, to present all relevant papers related to the CRZ clearances and the board’s environmental impact study. The Tribunal has emphasized the need for a thorough examination of these documents before any construction can proceed. The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for July 3.

Environmental Concerns and Prior Verdict

Advocate Bhattacharya argues that the seawall project is detrimental to the environment, as it divides the ecologically fragile Aksa Beach into two parts. Heavy machinery, such as JCBs, has been deployed for excavation, resulting in the accumulation of a significant amount of material on the beach. She also highlights a previous verdict by a special bench of the NGT, headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, which had imposed a ban on seawalls across all states and union territories. The special bench recommended a hybrid solution involving beach nourishment and reefs, as suggested by the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT). Additionally, the special bench mandated the preparation of detailed coastal zone management plans by the states.

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