Bombay HC raps Maharashtra, centre over 'faulty' CRZ maps


Bombay High Court has sought the responses of the state and the Centre on the accuracy of the final Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) maps for Greater Mumbai.

"Your clients will proceed on defective maps? Perhaps your clients are not bothered," a bench of acting Chief Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Nitin Borkar said on March 12 after told the Union's advocate for the Ministry of Environment and Forest said instructions would have to be taken from the National Centre for Earth Science Studies, Kerala.

The court heard a petition by NGO Vanshakti that the maps, prepared in 2018, under Coastal Regulation Zone notification, 2011, were "erroneous, inaccurate and incomplete."

The NGO's Advocate, Zaman Ali, argued that such defective maps were going to form the basis of new maps that are required to be updated under the 2019 CRZ notification. He said the whole exercise would be redundant if the present maps were not corrected. Asked by the judges to point out one defect, Ali answered different colour codes were required within CRZ-I areas such as mudflats, mangroves, sanctuaries and heritage sites.

He showed the final coastal maps for the eastern coast of Mumbai and said, "The entire CRZ-1 A (eco-sensitive areas) is given one colour. The Thane creek flamingoes sanctuary has not been given a distinct colour code as required by the 2011 notification."

The petition states "various plots/lands which would fall under different categories of CRZ are now marked as 'non-CRZ' without any justification" and that existing authorised development on the seaward side are not demarcated.

Pointing to further lapses, the plea says relief centres for disaster management during cyclones, rain, storms and tsunamis have not been indicated. The petition informs that suggestions and objections to the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) maps were ignored and that "authorities have failed to take into account the danger of natural hazards in the sensitive coastal stretches of Maharashtra."

The NGO has urged for a stay on the operation of the CZMP maps in their present layout and sought a directive for publication of fresh maps. It wants Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority to stop all ongoing construction/landfilling activities in CRZ areas until then.

Miffed at the Centre seeking time to reply, the ACJ also said, "Your clients are not co-operating with the court." The court gave a "last chance" and adjourned the hearing to March 27.

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