The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has quashed a petition by Uran villagers challenging the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA) for expansion of its fourth container terminal at Nhava Sheva.
Reclamation of 110 hectares of fertile intertidal commons to put up a chemical and marine terminal began on April 17, 2022, much to the ire of locals. After their plea was rejected by the Greens Tribunal they have decided to approach the Supreme Court for action against both JNPA and the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA).
The area in question falls under CRZ-1A classification, as per the earlier CRZ Notification, 2011, but is shown as CRZ-IV in maps updated after the CRZ Notification was amended in 2019, a move that locals vehemently maintain is erroneous in nature.
The MCZMA, despite having been clearly directed by the NGT to do a fresh demarcation of CRZ-IA and CRZ-IV areas (and not to allow any construction activities in the former) has not done any exercise in this regard.
Dismissing these pleas by Uran locals on March 15th, the NGT noted, “It is apparent from the affidavit of (JNPA) that the area of the project in question, which was being found to touch CRZ-IA area, was small area, has been excluded from the final layout, therefore now to say that any part of the project in question is falling in CRZ-IA area is not correct.”
The area is an expanse of biologically active mudflats, as per a number of site inspection reports prepared by the MCZMA on NGT’s previous instructions. For example, one such MCZMA report in 2012, said, “The site has ecologically sensitive features. The site has mudflats and fertile fish breeding grounds. Due to proposed marine and chemical terminal, all ecologically sensitive areas will be permanently lost.”
“The port has dumped thousands of tons of mud and gravel into the intertidal area where we would earlier find crabs, tiger prawns and lobsters in good quantity.
It is a shallow place, where the sunlight reaches the ocean bed and promotes growth of vegetation, attracting fish to breed there. Now, because of sedimentation from the reclaimed area, even the surrounding mudflats are seeing a decline in catch,” said one of the petitioners in the matter.