Environmental compensation of Rs 25 lakh imposed upon Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority

National Green Tribunal (NGT): While coming down heavily upon Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) for causing environment degradation due to widening of Mithi River, NGT imposed an environmental compensation of Rs 25 lakh upon the Authority. Said directions were issued by the Tribunal during the hearing of an appeal filed by a social organization Jalbiradari and an NGO Vanashakti, challenging the grant of CRZ Clearance for construction of retaining wall, service road along with the banks of the river Mithi, Mumbai by MMRDA. It was alleged in the appeal that nearly 90 per cent of the project had already been completed particularly in relation to the construction of retaining wall on the flood plain of river Mithi River which is primarily intended to protect the flooding of the adjacent areas. It was further alleged in the appeal that the blasting work carried out in river was in violation to the relevant laws in force.  After perusal of relevant documents and hearing the parties, NGT observed, “The project proponent, MMRDA has started the project without compliance to the relevant provisions of law. It caused environmental degradation and even the blasting work was carried in violation to the relevant laws in force. Consequently, the said respondent is liable to pay Environmental Compensation. At this initial stage, it is directed that the project proponent shall pay Rs. 25 lakhs as Environmental Compensation, which will be subject to final adjustment upon submissions of the report by the expert body including the money required for taking restorative and remedial measures.” NGT also directed State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) to nominate a member of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute as a member of the SEIAA, to examine the entire matter and submit its report to the Tribunal. SEIAA was further directed to consider the project as it exists and to give the amount to be imposed on the MMRDA for its defaults, violations and for damaging the environment, ecology and biodiversity of Mithi river and its surroundings. “The SEIAA shall ensure that the creek of river Mithi at the discharge point is duly protected. Because of the construction or any other reason the flow of river Mithi should not be adversely affected,” Tribunal added in its order. [Jalbiradari v. Ministry of Environment & Forests, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 188, decided on May 31, 2016]

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